Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cistercians in Yorkshire"

See other formats

Obe University of CbicaQo 





J \ 









I HAVE no intention of disarming criticism when I say 
that in the following pages there is no offering either of 
scholarship or of the results of original research. What 
is here attempted is to give a plain account, for the 
benefit of the average reader, of the rise of the Cistercian 
Order, and of its establishment in Yorkshire ; of the 
fortunes of the eight Yorkshire houses in poverty and 
in power ; of the causes and events which led to their 
suppression ; and of their actual fate in 1535-1540. I 
have relied throughout on. the authorities referred to in 
an appended list : all are readily available to those who 
desire a more intimate and detailed acquaintance with 
the subject. 


May 1919 


ADDY, S. O., Charters of Roche Abbey, 1878. 

ATKINSON, J. C., Cartiilarium Abbathiae de Rievalle (Surtees 

Society, 83), 1889. 

AVELING, J. H., History of Roche Abbey, 1870. 
BAILDON, W. P., Monastic Notes (Yorks. Arch. Soc., Record 

Series, 17), 1895. 

BOND, E. A., Chronica Monasterii de Melsa (Rolls Series), 1866-68. 
BREWER, J. S., GAIRDNER, J., and BRODIE, R. H., Letters and 

Papers : Henry VIII, 1862-1910. 
BURTON, J., Monasticon Eboracense, 1758. 
CLAY, J. W., Monasteries : Suppression Papers (Y.A.S., Record 

Series, 48), 1912. 
COOKE, A. M., Settlement of the Cistercians in England (Historical 

Review, October 1893). 

DIXON, W. H., History of the Church of England, 1878-91. 
DODDS, M. H. and R., The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1915. 
DODSWORTH, R., and DUGDALE, W., Monasticon Anglicanum, 

ed. 1693. 

EARLE, A., Assays upon the History ofMeaux Abbey, 1906. 
FOWLER, J. T., Cistercian Statutes (reprint, Y.A. Journal), 1890. 
GASQUET, F. A., English Monastic Life, 1904. 

Henry VIII and the English Monasteries, 1888-89. 
GUIGNARD, P., Les Monuments primitifs de la Regie cistercienne, 


HARLAND, J., History of S alley Abbey, 1853. 
HOPE, W. St. J., and BILSON, J., Kirkstall Abbey (Thoresby 

Society, 16), 1907. 

HUNTER, J., South Yorkshire, 1828-31. 
JANAUSCHEK, L., Originum Cisterciensium, 1877. 



LANCASTER, W. T., Chartulary of Fountains Abbey, 1915. 
LANCASTER, W. T., and BAILDON, W. P., Coucher Book ofKirkstall 

(Thoresby Society, 8), 1904. 

LUARD, H. R., Annales Monastici (Rolls Series), 1864-69. 
MANRIQUEZ, A., Annales Cistercienses, 1642. 
MARKET, E. DE, Liber Usuum Cisterciensis Ordinis, 1531. 
MERRIMAN, R. B., Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, 1902. 
MICKLETHWAITE, J. T., The Cistercian Order (Y.A.J., 15), 1899. 
Of the Cistercian Plan (Y.A.J., 7), 1882. 

MONTALEMBERT, C. F. R. DE, Les Moines d Occident, 1860-67. 
NEWMAN, J. H., The Cistercian Saints of England, 1844. 
OXFORD, A. W., Fountains Abbey, 1910. 
S^JALON, H., Monasticon Cisterciense, 1892. 
STEPHENS, W. R. W., and HUNT, W. (editors), History of the 

English Church, 1899-1910. 
THOMPSON, A. H., English Monasteries, 1913. 
WALBRAN, J. R., Memorials of Fountains Abbey (Surtees Society, 

42, 67), 1863-78. 
WHITAKER, T. D., History and Antiquities of Craven, 1805. 






V. POWER 136 







INDEX 329 




JERVAULX Frontispiece 







ROCHE 224 





WHOEVER would seek for the germs of the austerity and 
devotion which marked the early and middle periods of 
Cistercian history must go far back as far, at least, 
as those early years of the sixth century in which Benedict 
of Nursia founded his first monastic communities in the 
neighbourhood of Subiaco in Italy. Perhaps he should 
go even further back, for the monasticism of the West, 
to which Benedict gave order and system, was but a 
development of the monasticism of the East. Early in 
the fourth century St. Anthony s example was followed 
by many Christians of Egypt, and lauraiwere. established. 
These were communities in which each member had his 
own separate cell, and only met his brethren at the 
common services. A development came, a little later, 
when St. Pachomius founded his first ccenobium., further 
south in the same country ; in this, the meetings of 
the monks for worship and meals were frequent and 
regular, and the principle of common labour was intro 
duced. But a much more important development was 
that of St. Basil, who about the year 360 established 
near Neocsesarea a true system of common life, lived 
under one roof, under a communal father, the abbot. 
The new principle spread westward : before the time 
of Benedict, houses, founded on the idea of St. Basil, 
were established wherever Christianity had either super- 


seded or was slowly driving out the pagan cults. From 
one such house, at Lerins, one of the small islands which 
lie in the northern stretch of the Mediterranean, off the 
south coast of France, monasticism spread to Ireland 
through the agency of St. Patrick, whose wanderings 
had led him to that house for instruction and training ; 
it spread from Ireland, in one direction to France and 
Italy, in another to the loneliness of lona, whence St. 
Columba and his followers introduced it into the northern 
parts of Britain. To these first practisers of religious 
life lived apart Western Europe owes its first knowledge 
of the principles of Christianity. 


But it is to St. Benedict that Western monasticism 
owes rule, order, system, and, above everything, a new 
sense of the monastic ideal. The Eastern idea, as 
practised by the followers of St. Anthony, had been one 
of individual devotion : the idea of St. Benedict was 
that of religion in brotherhood. The monk of the East, 
in his separate cell, had imposed upon himself his own 
rule and his own austerities : St. Benedict taught the 
monks of the West the value and advantages of the 
common life. The followers of St. Anthony vied with 
each other in the heroism of individual self-denial : St. 
Benedict showed the better way of common emulation 
in piety based on obedience and humility : his followers 
were to pray, but they were also to work ; to deny 
themselves, but also to help others ; all was to be done 
in common endeavour. At some period of his own 
abbacy of Monte Cassino, over which house he ruled 
for thirty years, he wrote his Rule, which, because of 
its very wisdom and reasonableness, speedily became 
the established code of monasticism in Western Europe. 
Introduced into England by St. Augustine, himself a 
Benedictine monk, it gradually spread over the country, 
and influenced, if it did not wholly supersede, the forms 
of Celtic monasticism which existed at Glastonbury and 


Monkwearmouth, at Ripon and Whitby. Extinguished, 
in common with all Christian institutions in this country, 
by the pagan invasions in the eighth century, it was 
revived by the genius of St. Dunstan, and came to its 
full flower in the period which saw the building of 
Evesham and Worcester, Ramsey and Westminster. 
The upheaval which immediately preceded and followed 
the events of the Norman Conquest gave the spread of 
the Benedictine rule some slight check, but the new 
masters were good churchmen and generous benefactors, 
and the high-placed ecclesiastics who followed William 
from Normandy were adepts in the science of organiza 
tion. By the end of the eleventh century the Order 
was more powerful and popular in England than at 
any time since the arrival of St. Augustine, and in the 
whole of Western Europe it was exerting an influence 
and numbering adherents in degrees which its founder 
could scarcely have foreseen. The cell of the Italian 
hermit of Subiaco had developed into a vast system ; 
his first few followers into an army of men as famous 
for their learning as he had been for his piety. 


But other changes had come. The Order had begun 
in poverty : it was by this time exceeding rich. It had 
been cradled in obscurity, unnoticed of men , it was 
now celebrated, and its foremost officials sat in proud 
seats ; moreover, it was highly popular. And with 
wealth and power and popularity had come the inevitable 
accompaniments of laxity and indifference. Some notion 
of the laxity which existed may be gathered from what 
we know of the state of things at Canterbury, when 
Lanfranc, as Archbishop, sought to reform the com 
munity of Christchurch. The monks went hunting and 
hawking they found an indoor amusement in casting 
dice. From such laxity as this indifference would natu 
rally follow. Yet the rule of St. Benedict was neither 
unduly severe nor tending to gloom, as Lanfranc pointed 


out. It was the old, frequently repeated case of the 
churchman s three curses wealth, power, love of ease : 
three things, concomitants of worldliness, had broken 
in upon the original good system. But however widely 
the laxity had spread, there were always those who 
longed in the midst of it for revival and reform wise 
men, who knew that the true conservatism is that which, 
in preserving what is good in the old, hesitates not to 
eliminate whatever badness has grown, parasite-like, 
upon it ; who knew, too, that reform, true and genuine, 
is as much an evidence of life as growth itself. Such 
reformers grew up within the Benedictine Order early 
in the tenth century : beginning with no more than a 
desire to keep the original rule in its first purity and 
strictness, circumstance and necessity forced them into 
founding what became, virtually, new Orders under 
other names. 


Of these new Orders, the first in point of date was 
the Cluniac, taking its name from the abbey of Cluny, 
founded in 910, of which St. Berno was first abbot. 
While it preserved much of the original rule, the Cluniac 
Order differed from the Benedictine in matters of 
administration. Every Benedictine abbot was master 
in his own house ; the heads of the Cluniac houses were 
priors, under the rule of the Abbot of Cluny, general 
supervisor of the whole Order. The houses were exempt 
from episcopal authority : the head of the Order was 
responsible only to Rome. Here was a radical difference 
between the Benedictine and Cluniac Orders to the 
Cluniacs it proved a fatal weakness, for when Cluny 
itself declined, the daughter houses declined with it. 
Many houses had been established in England two, 
Pontefract and Monk Bretton, in Yorkshire. They were 
all liable to seizure by the Crown, being alien houses, 
and they eventually suffered confiscation. Certain of 
them, however, were permitted to remain as " denizen " 


houses, English priors being placed in charge of them ; 
one, at any rate, was transformed into an abbey St. 
Saviour at Bermondsey. As time went on, these 
Cluniac houses, founded in the desire for more strictness, 
declined from the same causes that had brought about 
the Benedictine laxity the acquisition of wealth and 


Further reform of the original Benedictine rule came 
in 1084, when St. Bruno took a number of followers to 
the solitude of La Chartreuse. He and his fellow-Car 
thusians at once adopted a system of great severity. 
They went back to the Eastern method of comparative 
isolation. Each member of the community had his 
separate cell in reality, a small house arranged on a 
specially devised plan in which he said his prayers, 
performed his labour, took his meal, made his medita 
tions. The rule of silence was strict. The brethren 
only met in church. The churches were plain of architec 
ture, without ornament ; there was nothing of precious 
metal in them save one silver chalice in each, with one 
silver tube through which the sacramental element was 
administered. The brethren wore the coarsest of gar 
ments ; goat s skin next their own ; they had no meat 
at any time ; one day out of the seven they had nothing 
but bread, salt, and water. A high festival must have 
been to them a great occasion ; then they were allowed 
a certain amount of fish and cheese, and a little wine 
mixed with water ; the rule of silence was some 
what relaxed. In England there were, at the most, 
never more than ten or eleven Carthusian houses : 
the best example of their plan and structure remain 
ing to us may be seen in the ruins of Mount 
Grace Priory, on the slopes of the Hambledon Hills in 



But greatest, most famous, and eventually most 
powerful of all the reformed Benedictine Orders was 
that which originated at Citeaux, in the diocese of 
Chalon-sur-Saone, in Burgundy. The Cistercian Order, 
once established, spread with wonderful rapidity. At 
the end of the eleventh century it had one house the 
parent house; by 1128 it possessed thirty; by 1152, 
three hundred and thirty ; a hundred years later, it 
counted at least six hundred. It had fifty houses in 
England and Wales within fifty years of the founding 
of Citeaux ; the fifty were to increase before long to 
seventy-five. In Yorkshire, by the middle of the twelfth 
century, eight houses had been founded ; they were 
foremost in England for their size, their influence, and 
their eventual wealth and importance : some of them, 
daughters themselves of Citeaux or of Clairvaux, became 
mother-houses of scarcely less notable foundations. 
Though the Order was spread all over England, from 
Robertsbridge in Sussex and Buckland in Devonshire, 
to Holme Cultram in Cumberland and Newminster in 
Northumberland, Yorkshire was richest in possession 
of its monasteries, and long before the events of the 
sixteenth century had well merited the honour of being 
called the home of the Cistercians. 


Somewhere about the year 1075 there was founded 
at Molesme, in Burgundy, a Benedictine house of which 
one Robert was abbot. We may imagine it to have 
been an undivided house at its inception, but it had 
certainly become a house of dissension before the end 
of the century. One party amongst its members 
probably the larger was for leaving things as they were, 
or as they had become ; the other was full of zeal for 
reform, or at least for a stricter observance of the rule 
of St. Benedict. At the head of the reforming party 


was the abbot himself ; he was supported by his prior, 
Alberic; he also had the support of one who was to 
become of far greater fame in Cistercian annals then 
either Stephen Harding, an Englishman of Sherborne 
in Dorset, who, after certain sojournings amongst the 
Benedictine monasteries of France, had joined the com 
munity at Molesme, and at the time of the dissension 
was sub-prior. What the particular nature of the dis 
sension was does not clearly appear, but the section 
which opposed reform was evidently stronger than that 
headed by the abbot, for in 1098 he was seeking 
permission from Hugh, Archbishop of Lyons, to leave 
Molesme, and to found a new community elsewhere, 
and in the same year, he, Alberic, and Stephen Harding, 
accompanied by eighteen other monks, departed. Their 
first proceedings were akin to those which were subse 
quently much in evidence in Cistercian history after 
certain wanderirigs they found what they considered 
a suitable site for a house in a lonely forest near Citeaux, 
and there decided to settle. The Exordium, printed in 
Guignard, states, with some care, that the consent of 
the owner of that site was properly obtained a not 
unimportant matter, for, as Mr. Micklethwaite has 
pointed out, prospective builders of monastic houses had 
a trick of establishing themselves on land which did not 
belong to them, and where difficulties arose they usually 
succeeded in holding their own. Here, however, there 
was no difficulty, and the reformers proceeded to clear the 
ground and to build themselves a habitation, fashioned, 
at first, of the wood they had cut down. It was doubt 
less a poor enough place, this first house of Citeaux, and 
Robert, duly appointed abbot by the Bishop of Chalon, 
had probably no idea that his abbey was to become 
famous for all time as the cradle of the Cistercian Order. 


But Citeaux was not then Cistercian in the sense in 
which we understand the word. Its first members had 


, no other thought than that of keeping the rule of St. 
| Benedict, in spirit and in letter. There are no evidences 
\ that they intended to inaugurate a new Order, with a 
\new constitution and new rules, when they left Molesme 
\and its lax brethren. And before they had long gone 
kpart, those whom they had left behind desired the 
return of at least one of them. Perhaps the bravery of 
the separatists in going forth into the solitude stirred 
some regret, awakened some sleeping conscience, in the 
monks of Molesme at any rate, we very soon find 
them ardently desiring the return of their old abbot, 
without whose presence, they said, there would be no 
peace in their midst, nor any hope of restoring the 
ancient rule. And in the year following the exodus, 
against his own will, but in obedience to papal behest, 
Robert returned to Molesme, and Alberic was elected 
Abbot of Citeaux in his place. He ruled the house for 
nearly ten years. They were years of poverty years, 
too, of strict and rigid obedience to the principles for 
which the reformers had contended. So strictly indeed 
was the rule of St. Benedict observed in those early 
days of Citeaux, that those who thought of joining the 
community were chary of subjecting themselves to its 
rigid discipline, and the brotherhood under Alberic did 
not greatly increase. But in his time a certain amount 
of recognition and prosperity came to the house. Pope 
Paschal II, himself a Benedictine of the reformed 
Cluniac Order confirmed Citeaux in its rights and pos 
sessions : Otho, Duke of Burgundy, showed some 
benevolence towards it. Doubtless the original wooden 
buildings were to some extent replaced by stone during 
this period, which served as an introduction to the great 
work that was to be done in the new century. 


It is to the successor of Alberic, to the third Abbot 
of Citeaux, to Stephen Harding, the Englishman of 
Sherborne, that we must look if we wish to see the real 


founder of the Cistercian Order. When he succeeded \ 
Abbot Alberic in 1 109 he was in his fiftieth year : he / 
ruled Citeaux for twenty-two years ; he framed its / 
constitution, and drew up its rule of life ; he boldly / 
discarded the old name and announced the birth of the 
Cistercian Order of Monks ; his own life was one of / 
marked sanctity, and he was eventually accorded the 
honours of canonization. But although he formed 
Citeaux into a new congregation his first law based 
itself on the ancient rule of St. Benedict, literally 
observed. As for his ideas upon the new order of 
things which he himself was instituting, Newman, 
the Life of Stephen Harding, which he wrote for the 
Oxford Lives of the Saints, thus epitomizes them : 
Anxious to avoid the disorders which he had seen in 
other monastic communities and systems, he " deter 
mined on instituting a system of reciprocal visitation 
between the abbeys of his Order. He might, as Abbot 
of Citeaux, have constituted himself the head of this 
increasing congregation ; but his object was not to 
lord it over God s heritage, but to establish between the 
Cistercian abbeys a lasting bond of love. The body of 
statutes which he presented to his brethren in the 
general chapter of 1119, was called the Chart of Charity. 
In its provisions, the whole Order is looked upon as one 
family, united by ties of blood ; Citeaux is the common 
ancestor of the whole . . . the Abbot of Citeaux was 
called Pater universalis ordinis ; he visited any monastery 
that he pleased, and wherever he went the abbot gave 
up his place to him. On the other hand, the abbots of 
the . . . filiations . . . visited Citeaux, besides which 
each abbot went every year to inspect the abbeys which 
had sprung from his own. Every year a general chapter 
was held at Citeaux, which all the abbots in the Order, 
except some whose houses were in very distant countries, 
were obliged to attend under heavy penalties. . . . Each 
abbey was to receive with joy any of the brethren of 
other Cistercian abbeys, and to treat him as though he 


were at home. Thus the most perfect union was to be 
preserved amongst the whole body." The Charta Chari- 
tatis, to which Newman here refers, was confirmed by 
Pope Calixtus II in 1119, and subsequently by several 
of his successors. It was certainly compiled by Stephen 
Harding himself, in collaboration with some of his 
fellow-religious, and under advice from various eccle 
siastical authorities, called in as consultants. Before 
his death, in March 1134, he had also compiled the 
Liber Usuum, wherein were specified the various usages 
and ceremonies to be observed throughout the newly 
founded Order. 


While brotherly love, a warm and abiding charity, 
was to be the bond of union amongst the Cistercians, 
simplicity in all things was to be their distinguishing 
mark. Herein they offered a marked contrast to the 
Cluniacs, who, from the first, while adhering strictly to 
rigid monastic discipline, instituted and preserved a 
high standard of ritual, and furnished their churches 
in rich and splendid style, " counting nothing too good 
for the service of God." The Cluniac church was con 
spicuous for its painted glass and silken hangings ; its 
sacramental vessels were of silver and gold, not seldom 
enriched with precious stones ; its vestments were of 
silk and velvet ; marble and alabaster supplemented 
the stone of the nearest quarry ; the services of the 
altar were carried out with strict attention to pomp and 
ceremony. Far different was the Cistercian method, as 
conceived and laid down in rule by Stephen Harding 
and his associates. Anything which savoured of ostenta 
tion and superfluity was to be strictly avoided. The 
Cistercian houses were to be erected in lonely places 
in some secluded valley, apart from men, for choice. 
Their architecture was to be plain and simple ; high 
towers and rich ornament were forbidden ; the windows 
were to be of plain glass, unpainted, unstained : paint- 


ings and mural decorations were prohibited. Nor were 
carving and sculpture to find place ; it was forbidden 
to introduce a triforium between the arches and roofs 
of nave or choir. There were to be no turrets, no 
pinnacles ; whatever furniture was in the church was 
to be of the simplest. A similar austereness extended 
to the vestments. The chasubles were to be of plain 
linen, or of the material called fustian ; it was strictly 
forbidden to ornament them with gold, silver, gems, or 
silk. The albs and amices were to be of linen : they, 
too, were to go without ornament, lace, or embroidery. 
The use of the cope and the dalmatic was forbidden. 
But the stoles and fanons might be of silk, so long as 
no decoration of silver or gold was added. The use of 
gold was prohibited entirely, even in the service of the 
altar. The Cistercian altar was plain even to baldness. 
Its cross was of painted wood. Its one candlestick 
no more was allowed was of iron ; the thurible might 
be of either iron or copper. The cloths were of plain 
linen ; the cruets of some inexpensive earthenware or 
metal ; the chalice itself, and the pipe used for communi 
cating, was of silver, but, if the authorities approved, 
the chalice might be gilt. Severe as all this was, it is 
easy to see how it fitted in with the idea of quiet dignity 
which characterized all that the original founders did 
and aimed at. 


From the first beginnings the members of the Cis 
tercian Order were divided into two classes, strictly 
kept apart, yet each united and sharing in the common 
lot. They were distinguished as monachi (monks) and 
conversi (lay-brothers). The monk was a clerk of a 
certain amount of literacy, able at any rate to read and 
write ; as in the case of the Benedictine rule, he was not 
of necessity a priest, though in practice most of the 
Cistercian monks were admitted to priest s orders. As 
a clerk, his chief duties were with church and cloister ; 


he had little to do with the business matters of his 
house, unless he happened for the moment to be occupy 
ing one of the many offices, and was for the time being, 
for instance, kitchener or infirmarer. The lay-brother 
was, as his name implied, a layman who had embraced 
the religious life, had served his time as a novice, and 
had in due course made his solemn profession. Usually 
in the early days of the Order at any rate quite 
illiterate, he was not allowed to learn reading or writing, 
and he was forbidden to take holy orders. During his 
novitiate he was taught certain prayers and psalms and 
passages of Holy Scripture (some of the conversi are said 
to have known the Psalter from end to end), and in a 
certain degree he observed the hours after the fashion 
of the monacki, attending part of the night-office, being 
present at Compline, and reciting certain prayers at 
the proper time. But his chief duty was the doing of 
his appointed work under the monastic regulations, on 
the farm, in the shearing-shed, at the mill, round the 
forge. He was governed by the same rules which 
governed the monk as to abstinence and silence, but 
his hours of sleep were so arranged as to fit him for 
hard manual labour. He and his brethren had their 
own rooms in the cloister ; their own space in the 
church ; their own infirmary ; they also had their own 
chapter, though it was presided over by the abbot. As 
for garments, they were provided with stockings and 
boots, a tunic, a hood, and a cloak. 


The founders of the Order, from the first, attached 
great importance to the value and dignity of work. 
Labour, done, not for the production of luxuries, but 
for useful and honest purposes, they placed on. a level 
with the performance of the religious services of the 
church to labour was as meritorious as to pray : 
prayer and labour combined, the one supplementing or, 
rather, mingling with the other, was to be the good 


Cistercian ideal. And the labour on which they set 
their thoughts was manual labour. The Benedictine 
rule had encouraged work but the work to which the 
Benedictines had invariably turned was work in scholar 
ship ; their labour lay amongst books and papers. The 
Cistercian rule sent men to the fields, the grange, the 
workshop it may be that one reason Avhy it was so 
eagerly embraced in its first period was because, in 
addition to giving men weary of the world a safe religious 
retreat, it afforded them abundance of healthy occupa 
tion. No man sat with idly folded hands in a Cistercian \ 
house. He was at the plough, or grinding the corn, or 
drawing the water, or shearing the sheep, or fashioning 
iron-work in the smithy, or melting ore at the forge, 
or working in the lead-mine ; always he was busy. As/ 
a rule the conversi worked in silence, but the blacksmiths 
were allowed to talk, and the other trades had rooms 
outside their workshops wherein conversation was per 
mitted under certain regulations. The rule of silence 
extended to encounters with folk of the outside world ; 
nevertheless, if a stranger asked for information it was 
to be given him with all courtesy, coupled with an 
intimation that the giver must not enter into further 
exchange of words. 


Manual labour was shared in, also, by the monks ; 
in this respect there was little difference between them 
and the lay-brothers. The Cistercian idea had no great 
leanings towards scholarship. " Nee presumat aHquis 
novas librorum exposiciones facere sine consensu capitali 
generalis," says the Statute. In time, however, certain 
of the members felt that more attention should be given 
to scholarship. Matthew Paris gives a reason for this 
feeling. The Dominicans and Franciscans, together 
with those secular clergy who had learning, began, 
evidently not over-delicately, to reproach the Cistercians 
with their deficiencies. And about 1250, an Abbot of 


Clairvaux, Stephen of Lexington, an Englishman, feel 
ing deeply pained by these reproaches, took upon himself, 
without authority of his brethren, but with permission 
from Rome, to found at Paris a college whereat Cistercian 
monks might gain the advantages to be had from the 
famous university. Later a similar college was estab 
lished at Oxford it, like the college in Paris, was 
dedicated to St. Bernard ; St. Bernard s at Oxford is 
now the college we know as St. John s. Between St. 
Bernard s in Paris and Yorkshire there is an interesting 
link; part of the funds necessary to the keeping up of 
the Paris institution was obtained by impropriation of 
a moiety of the rectory of Rotherham. Nevertheless, in 
spite of these efforts, and of the sneers of the friars, the 
Cistercians were at no time a learned body, and from the 
time of their establishment in England to the days of their 
decline they remained steadfastly constant to their ideals 
of earnest prayer and equally earnest manual labour. 


As the first rules and constitutions provided for future 
conduct of life and affairs, so also the original founders 
laid down the principles on which the Cistercian church 
and cloister were to be designed and built. The Cis 
tercian church, even in its mere architecture, was to be 
as austere as the Cistercian ideal : we can gain some 
idea of it from the ruins remaining and, in at any rate 
some instances, fortunately now being well guarded 
in our own country. " Some of their earliest churches," 
writes Mr. A. H. Thompson in his English Monasteries, 
" as at Waverley and Tintern, had aisleless naves, short 
transepts, each with one rectangular chapel upon its 
eastern side, and an aisleless rectangular presbytery. 
This is a simple form of the normal Cistercian plan, 
which may be seen to perfection at Kirkstall and 
Buildwas, and was preserved with some modifications 
in a late rebuilding at Furness. The presbytery, aisle- 
less and rectangular, projected some two bays east of 


the crossing, the high altar being placed slightly in 
advance of the east wall. The western bay of the 
presbytery was covered on either side by two or three 
rectangular chapels ranged along the east side of the 
transepts, divided from each other by solid walling, but 
with a continuous eastern wall. The nave was aisled. 
The choir was in the usual position, in the crossing and 
the eastern bays of the nave, and was enclosed on north 
and south by stone walls which were built flush with 
the inner faces of the columns and across the length 
of the crossing. The lower entry of the choir was, as 
usual, in the middle of the pulpitum : the upper entries 
were doors in the side-walls close to the presbytery." 
According to the same authority Cistercian influence in 
the matter of architecture is traceable in many churches 
belonging to other Orders, while the feature of the 
rectangular chancel, so much in evidence in our larger 
fabrics, is also attributable to it. 


The arrangement of the Cistercian cloister may be 
studied in the plan of such a house as Fountains : it is, 
however, only architectural and archzeological experts 
who can either understand or explain the niceties of 
such an arrangement, and it will be sufficient here if 
the principal parts of the cloistral dwelling are specified 
and their uses defined. Mr. Micklethwaite has pointed 
out that the plan of the Cistercian cloister is indicated 
by the order in which the various parts are ordered to 
be visited in the customary Sunday procession, which 
passed in turn by way of chapter-house, parlour, dorter, 
rere-dorter, warming-house, frater, kitchen, and cellarer s 
building. The purposes of these various parts are 
explained by their names. In the chapter-house the 
members of the community assembled for the daily 
conference ; in it, according to Guignard, the con 
fessions of the monks (not of the lay-brothers) were 
ordinarily heard ; it contained the presidential chair of 


the abbot ; it was, so to speak, the justice-room and 
parliamentary theatre of the brotherhood. The parlour 
(auditorium juxta capitulum) was in some monastic 
houses used as a place in which visitors could be received, 
and in which business of the house was discussed by 
the inmates when strict silence was being observed in 
the cloister : by the Cistercians it appears to have been 
used for the novices or for the holding of school. The 
dorter was, of course, the sleeping-chamber, furnished 
with day-stairs and night-stairs the last-named an 
easy method of access to the church ; the rere-dorter 
a domus necessana. The warming-house, or cale 
factory, was a common-room wherein fire was lighted 
from, generally, about the beginning of November to 
the end of March : that of Fountains contained two 
very large fireplaces ; against its outer wall stood the 
wood-house, from which fuel was brought as it was 
needed. Close by was the frater, which, with the frater 
of the conversi and the kitchen, was, in the Cistercian 
houses, arranged on a distinctive plan, the kitchen being 
placed in the middle, and the two chambers served 
through cleverly contrived hatches in the walls. In 
the Cistercian arrangement the term cellarer s building 
was a wide one it included storerooms, the living and 
working rooms of the cowoersi, accommodation for guests, 
the buttery, the cellarer s checker, or office, and his 
lodging. In addition to these principal parts there were 
others of scarcely less importance the infirmarium, the 
lavatorium ; there was the cloister itself, with its carrels 
(small studies), and there was the abbot s lodging. Not 
all Cistercian houses can show such a width of ground 
plan and multiplicity of arrangement as Fountains, which 
in time became possessed of vast wealth ; the smaller 
houses perhaps correspond more closely to the original 
simplicity of design. In one particular the Cistercian 
plan is notable : it remained unique ; no other Order 
fell under its influence so far as to copy its peculiar 



In considering the ordinary life of a Cistercian house, 
it should be remembered that it was primarily based 
on the rule of St. Benedict, for the better and truer 
observance of which the first settlers of Citeaux had 
forsaken Molesme. All that Stephen Harding and his 
associates did was to supplement that rule. The Charta 
Charitatis of 1119 ; the Exordium of 1120 ; the various 
constitutions and precepts which followed, until the 
Order was soundly based, were all intended, not to 
supplant, but to fix more firmly in the minds of the 
brethren the principles which St. Benedict had laid 
down centuries earlier. The early Cistercians were 
reminded that first of all and last of all they were 
monks. Most of them were laymen. There were, of 
course, many amongst them who were in holy orders ; 
some were in priest s orders. But their life would have 
gone on, have kept its peculiar object in view, had 
there been no clergy amongst them. Their motive was 
the continual praise of God in the sanctuary, and their 
lot common labour in field or workshop. From the 
moment of his profession until the hour of his death, 
the Cistercian s life was a regular and an even one. 
Save when he was discharging the duties of some office 
entrusted to him by the abbot, his whole time was 
given to church and cloister and work. Day out, day 
in, he was either on his knees in prayer or using his 
strength in honest labour. To this had God called 


It was no easy life. St. Benedict himself had not 
meant it to be an easy life ; the first Cistercian made 
St. Benedict s rule even heavier than he had left it. 
Under the new constitution the day and the night were 
each fixed as of twelve hours duration, but the hours 
were of a length regulated by the season of the year. 


Thus the night hours were short in summer, long in 
winter ; the day hours, of course, were the exact oppo 
site. Whatever the season of the year, however, the 
Opus Dei must be kept up nothing must stand in its 
way, no cause, however apparently imperative, prevent 
its being carried out. Even in harvest, when it was 
necessary to husband the crops, and sometimes to work 
at high pressure to get them in, the regular round of 
service was preserved. Those who were near at hand 
must hasten to the church ; those far off in the fields 
must stay their work and repeat the office where they 
stood. As regards the actual observance of the hours, 
the Cistercians, following St. Benedict, called matins 
vigilice. They rose for it at the eighth hour in the winter 
half of the year 2 A.M. Except on certain occasions 
it was immediately followed by the Office for the Dead : 
this over, the hours before dawn were spent in medita 
tion or in reading ; those who read were accommodated 
with lights placed by the book-presses in the cloister 
or in the chapter-house. At daybreak, on a signal from 
the abbot, the sacrist rang the bell, all returned into 
the church, and lauds, which the Cistercians called 
matins, was sung. In the summer, months the hour of 
rising was so fixed that there was only a brief interval 
between vigils and matins the first was shortened, and 
the Office for the Dead was transferred to evening. At 
this period of the year the hours of sleep were so reduced 
that a meridian was allowed. As a rule vigils was sung 
in darkness, the monks singing the Psalms from memory. 
Prime was sung at the first hour of the day 6 A.M. in 
the summer-time ; terce, sext, and nones followed at 
the proper intervals. At six in the afternoon evensong 
was sung, followed soon afterwards by compline, and 
with this the daily office ended. But in addition to 
the office, every monk was present at Mass once on 
ordinary days and twice on feasts. On ordinary days 
High Mass was sung immediately after prime ; on feasts 
there was a second Mass after terce. Such of the monks 


as were in priest s orders might say Mass privately, but 
there was no provision in the constitutions that they 
should be obliged to do so every day. 


It was obligatory on every monk, unless he was 
prohibited by the abbot, to receive Holy Communion 
on Christmas Day, the Thursday before Easter, Easter 
Day, and.Whitsun Day. But he who was prepared (the 
Statute says qui potuerif) was to receive every Sunday 
if not on Sunday, then on some morning following 
during that week. The Order had certain methods of 
its own in saying Mass and administering Holy Com 
munion, particularly as regards the making of the 
chalice, and the administration of the Sacred Species. 
As to the first, the deacon, after saying Confiteor, was 
to spread the corporal on the altar, and after rinsing 
the chalice with water, to minister bread upon the 
paten and wine in the chalice, helped by the sub-deacon. 
Whether done by deacon or -sub-deacon, wine was first 
to be poured into the chalice, and then the cruet contain 
ing water was to be handed to the priest when he was 
ready, and he poured water into the chalice. Then the 
paten being set on the chalice and covered with the 
veil, the priest descended below the step on the right 
hand and said Dominus Fobiscum. It would seem from 
the Liber Usuum, and from Guignard, that the practice 
was to set the bread and wine, not on a credence table, 
but at the end of the altar. As to the administration, 
all communicants received in both kinds. The deacon, 
having been communicated by the priest with the Body, 
took the chalice from the altar and communicated him 
self with the Blood, standing, after which, if only a very 
few persons were to receive, he administered to them 
as they knelt, all clergy above the rank of sub-deacon 
being permitted, to touch the chalice for the purpose of 
guiding it to their lips. But if there were many com- 
mtinicants, the fistula was used. This was a silver pipe 


which, was brought by the sub-deacon to the north end 
of the altar, whither the deacon carried the chalice after 
he had communicated himself. The communicants then 
received the Body at the hands of the priest at the south 
end of the altar, after which they passed behind him to 
the north end, where the sub-deacon held the chalice 
with both hands on the corner of the altar, and the 
deacon placed in it the fistula. The sub-deacon and the 
other communicants then received the Blood through 
the fistula standing. As they left the altar, the sacrist 
offered to each a drink of wine as an ablution. Accord 
ing to the constitution as quoted by Guignard, if there 
were many communicants, and hence need of more wine, 
the deacon filled up the chalice with unconsecrated wine, 
the Cistercian view evidently being that the uncon 
secrated element would receive consecration from the 
already consecrated Sacrament. 


Either after terce on ordinary days, or after the first 
Mass on festivals, the daily chapter was held, the abbot 
presiding when he was at home, the prior if he was 
absent. It was opened by the reading of the names of 
saints commemorated on the day ; this was followed by 
the recitation of prayers for the faithful departed, after 
which certain passages from the Rule of St. Benedict 
were read. The duties assigned to each monk for the 
day were then announced : if any member desired to 
be excused, he at once stated his reasons. Formal 
commemoration of all dead brethren of the Order was 
then made, and on festivals this was succeeded by a 
short sermon. After this, special commemoration by 
name was made of those who had died recently, and 
letters were read announcing deaths in other houses of the 
Order. Then came the public confession and punish 
ment. Any monk who was conscious of offence made 
acknowledgment and sought pardon. Any member 
might accuse another ; the accused had the right of 


defence. But no man who had been denounced might 
denounce his denouncer at the same chapter. The 
punishments meted out were fasting on bread and water ; 
loss of precedence, and corporal chastisement the last 
was carried out there and then. More serious faults 
were punished by expulsion or imprisonment : occasion 
ally by excommunication. And all that passed in 
chapter was under strict secrecy, and was not to be 
talked of, once the community had left the chapter 


Now began the day s work, portioned out, as a rule, 
by the prior, who summoned the members to the parlour 
and assigned each his task. Silence was to be observed 
in working, save under licence, and no one might carry 
a book. In the early days the labour chiefly lay in 
clearing waste land, cutting down trees, laying out 
grounds and gardens, and in agricultural pursuits, and 
in building the first houses ; later it extended to work 
in the mill, the smithy, the carpenters shop, the forge, 
and the wool-warehouse. Those whose work kept them 
near the church repaired to it at the proper times for 
the due observance of the office ; those who went far 
afield said the office at the place of their labours. On 
the minor festivals they worked as on ordinary days ; 
the greater festivals they kept like Sunday, spending 
their time after chapter in reading. They might, if 
they were so minded, go into the church for private 
prayer, but due watch was kept to prevent this from 
degenerating into idleness : in the Cistercian idea, idle 
ness had no place at any time. 


But even monks must eat and they must sleep. For 
one-half of the year which we may call the summer 
half the Cistercians dined after sext, and supped after 
nones ; on Wednesdays and Fridays, however, they 


dined after nones and had no supper at all. In winter 
which was reckoned as extending from the middle of 
September until Easter they had but one meal a day, 
which was taken after nones, except in Lent, when it 
was served after evensong, but early enough to be eaten 
by daylight. As regards their diet they followed the 
old rule of St. Benedict with scrupulous fidelity. The 
daily allowance to each man was one pound of bread 
and a measure of drink, one-third being saved from 
dinner for supper, when supper was permitted. At 
dinner there were two cooked dishes soups or vegetable 
messes, of course, for no flesh or fish was allowed, nor 
was it permitted to use lard in cooking. These cooked 
dishes were supplemented by green-stuff, at one time of 
the year ; by fruit, at another. Strict order and cere 
mony was observed, in accordance with the manners 
and customs of polite folk, at all meal-times. If the 
abbot was not entertaining guests, he presided in the 
frater, where the tables were duly arranged and spread 
with linen cloths ; one table stood at the end facing the 
door ; the others were set against the walls on either 
side : in place of the abbot, the prior presided. When 
the brethren, having previously washed their hands, 
entered the frater, each bowed to the high table, and 
then stood by his own place until abbot or prior entered. 
He, on coming to his seat, rang a bell ; the priest on 
duty for that week said grace, the brethren making 
response. Then all sat, and the reader in his pulpit on 
the west wall opened his book and began his reading. 
Due details as to behaviour are set forth in the constitu 
tions. No man was to leave the room, nor to walk 
about. Salt must be taken with the point of the knife, 
not with the fingers ; when a man drank, he was to 
hold his cup with both hands. He must not wipe knife 
nor fingers on the table-cloth, nor put his fingers into 
his cup. When the meal was over, the bell rang, the 
reader paused ; all rose, walked to the church, singing 
the 5 ist Psalm, and there returned thanks. Certain 


indulgences were made in the matter of. food. The 
reader, the cook, ?.nd the cellarer, having had to wait 
for their dinner, were permitted a sort of lunch called 
mixtum four ounces of bread and half a pint of drink 
which they took earlier in the day. And the younger 
brethren, having bigger appetites, were also allowed 
mixtum, and consumed it before terce. During the 
summer months, when nights were short, there was an 
hour s sleep in the dorter after dinner; that over, the 
monks rose, washed, and repaired to the church for 
nones. Nones being sung, if there was no supper, he 
who desired it might obtain a drink in the frater, but 
it would seem from the rules that he had had to save 
this from his dinner. When there was any supper, it 
was followed by an assembly in the cloister, whereat 
one of the monks read aloud to his fellows from either 
the Bible or some pious work. This over, they repaired 
to the church, sang compline, and retired for the night. 

22. DEATH. 

In the case of each monk the quiet and orderly life 
came at last to its end, so far as this world was concerned. 
When death drew near, either the abbot, or, failing him, 
the priest next high in office, administered the last 
sacraments. The whole of the brotherhood were present 
they first assembled in the church, and then walked 
in procession to the dying monk s side, singing psalms 
as they walked. As the last moment drew near, the 
sick man was laid upon the floor, on a bed of ashes, 
made in the form of a cross, over which, according to 
the Cistercian directions, a mat of straw, covered by a 
quilt, had been placed. The tabula (a wooden board 
hung in the cloister, with a wooden mallet attached to 
it) was beaten, and all who could hurried to the scene. 
So the Cistercian died, his brethren praying around his 
death-bed. As soon as the soul had departed, the body 
was washed and shrouded, the community meanwhile 
saying certain prayers and psalms in a place close by. 


To them the body was brought when ready, and the 
abbot having sprinkled and censed it, it was carried into 
church in procession, with the singing of more psalms. 
If death took place before dinner, Mass for the dead 
was said as soon as the body had been carried to church, 
and burial followed immediately afterwards. But if 
death took place after dinner. Mass and interment were 
postponed until next morning : in the interval a con 
tinuous office for the dead was kept up in the church 
by monks detailed for the service. Burial was carried 
out in the graveyard at the east end of the church ; for 
thirty days special mention was made of the dead man 
in church and chapter, and for ever, year after year, 
as the anniversary of his release from the world came 
round, and letters announcing his death were sent round 
to all other houses of the Order, so that their members 
might join in the prayers offered on his behalf. One 
more custom of the Cistercians in relation to their 
departed was that at every meal a share of food was 
set apart in the name of the dead, and was subsequently 
handed to the poor who came about the gates. 


The daily life of the lay-brothers was somewhat 
different to that of the monks, though the difference 
was only slight. They lived partly in the abbey, partly 
in the granges on the abbey lands. They kept the hours 
in different fashion, saying the psalms and prayers, the 
Credo, the Pater Noster, and the Gloria Patri, which 
they had been taught by heart openly, if they were 
not in church ; privately, in the church itself, so as 
not to interrupt the choir office. They were not required 
to rise as early as the monks, who had sung vigils in 
winter, and matins in summer, before the lay-brothers 
rose. When they rose they said their own office up to 
prime, after which they went to their work. Their 
Sunday and non-working days were kept exactly as the 
monks kept theirs ; on these days they heard Mass 


twice. They were required to communicate seven times 
a year ; those who dwelt in the granges were expected 
to attend the abbey church for this purpose, but if 
they were a long way out they could obtain leave from 
the abbot to communicate elsewhere, at some convenient 
parish church of the neighbourhood. They regularly 
heard sermons in the chapter-house ; three times a 
year at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide they 
held their own chapter, which was conducted on the 
same system as that of the monks. They had a prior 
of their own, and he presided at their meals ; they had 
the same meals which were served to the monks. But 
they had a privilege which the monks were denied 
the lay-brother not only had a mixtum of half a pound 
of bread the best bread but he might eat as much 
as he pleased of the coarser bread. Neither was he 
expected to fast as the monks did. In life, then, his 
life was not quite so hard as that of the monk s : in 
death, he was treated precisely as a monk was. 


Such, briefly outlined, was the life which Stephen 
Harding and his early associates set themselves to live, 
and imposed upon all who came to them in their day, 
and essayed to follow them when that day was over. 
Hard and self-denying as the rule was, repelling some, 
there were always men who were eager to embrace it. 
The new Order began to spread in its very infancy. 
Four years after Harding became Abbot of Citeaux, the 
first daughter-house was founded at La Ferte ; it was 
succeeded, within the next few years, by others at 
Pontigny, Clairvaux, and Morimond. From one or 
other of these other houses sprang in due course. Later, 
it received an accession of strength by the adhesion of 
the Order of Savigny, another reformed Benedictine 
community, and it quickly spread over the Western 
countries of Europe, so much so, indeed, that a General 
Chapter of 1152 thought it advisable to prohibit any 


further increase in the number of houses, which, within 
fifty years, had already reached well over three hundred. 
But the increase went on in spite of that, and in addition 
to the usual establishments the Order came to possess 
seven associated orders of knighthood, of which the 
best known was that of the Templars. 


Just as the foundation of the Cistercian Order was 
due to the zeal and piety of one man, Stephen Harding, 
so to the extraordinary genius and ability of one man, 
and that one of Harding s own monks at Citeaux, must 
be attributed the marvellous way in which it spread 
between 1113 and 1152. That man was the famous 
Bernard of Clairvaux, with whom Yorkshiremen were 
to have much close relationship in the days to come. 
Born in 1090, the son of a Crusader and of a mother who 
sprang from a noble family of Burgundy, Bernard, at 
the age of twenty-three, entered the new house at 
Citeaux and became quickly distinguished for his zeal, 
his piety, and his administrative powers. When the 
extension of the Order became necessary, he led forth 
a chosen band to Clairvaux, amongst the woods and 
solitudes of Champagne, and there founded the house 
which, because of his association with it, was quickly 
to become equally famous with its parent of Citeaux. 
In some respects, he, perhaps, was even more of a 
founder of Cistercianism than Harding himself. From 
his love of retirement came the saying, Bernardus voiles 
amabat ; from the soldier instinct in him doubtless grew 
the Cistercian description of their Order novi milites 
Christi cum paupere Christo pauperes. For Bernard was 
not only monk and mystic, but the zealous inciter of 
warfare against the Infidels who held the Holy Places ; 
had he not been a monk he would have been a Crusader, 
like his father before him ; it was in his power to lead 
the Second Crusade ; it was only the failure of his 
bodily powers that stayed him in preaching the Third, 


Remote as Clairvaux was in his time, the fame of its 
abbot rang through Europe : Bernard, indeed, familiar 
to most of us in those hymns of his composing which 
appeal to all Christians, was, as Freeman has called him, 
" the Last of the Fathers, the Counsellor of Popes and 
Kings." " In speech, in writing, in action," says Gibbon, 
" Bernard stood high above his rivals and contem 
poraries ; his compositions are not devoid of wit and 
eloquence ; and he seems to have preserved as much 
reason and humanity as may be reconciled with the 
character of a saint. In a secular life he would have 
shared the seventh part of a private inheritance ; by 
a vow of poverty and penance, by closing his eyes 
against "the visible world, by the refusal of all eccle 
siastical dignities, the Abbot of Clairvaux became the 
oracle of Europe, and the founder of one hundred and 
sixty convents. Princes and pontiffs trembled at the 
freedom of his apostolical censures ; France, England, 
and Milan consulted and obeyed his judgment in a 
schism of the Church. ... He shone as the missionary 
and prophet of God who called the nations to the defence 
of His Holy Sepulchre." " There have been other men," 
says Archbishop Trench, speaking of St. Bernard, 
"... who by their words and writings have ploughed 
deeper and more lasting furrows in the great field of 
the Church, but probably no man during his lifetime 
ever exercised a personal influence in Christendom equal 
to his, who was the stayer of popular commotions, the 
queller of heresies, the umpire between princes and 
kings, the counsellor of popes, the founder for so he 
may be esteemed of an important religious order, the 
author of a crusade." 


Through St. Bernard of Clairvaux the link between 
Yorkshire and the Order of which he remains the greatest 
ornament is forged : between him and Rievaulx and 
Fountains the connexions are strong. But although the 


Cistercian Order became more firmly and proudly estab 
lished in Yorkshire than in any other English county, 
Yorkshire was not the first county in which a Cistercian 
house was set up. That honour belongs to Surrey. 
Near Farnham in that county there lie the poor frag 
ments of the first English Cistercian house, known in 
its time as the Abbey of Waverley. So completely was 
the work of destruction and spoliation carried out here 
that few people who look on the ruins can realize that 
the church was one of the finest in England, and occupied 
its builders for seventy-five years. Waverley was 
founded within thirty years of the migration of Robert 
and his companions from Molesme to Citeaux ; about 
fifteen years after St. Bernard left Citeaux for Clairvaux. 
In 1128 William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester, brought 
over to his diocese a company of Cistercian monks from 
Aumone in Normandy, gave them a site at Waverley, 
and laid their foundation-stone with his own hands. 
He died shortly afterwards, but his successor, Henry de 
Blois, a monk of the Benedictine Order, and brother to 
King Stephen, continued his predecessor s patronage, 
and gave the new community many possessions and 
privileges. True to the Cistercian tradition new as 
that was this first English house soon sent out new 
colonies. Garendon, in Leicestershire, was the first ; 
Ford, in Devonshire, the second ; Combe, in Warwick 
shire, the third ; Thame, in Oxfordshire, the fourth. 
Other houses were colonized from these ; in all, Waverley 
was parent-house to eleven Cistercian settlements. The 
Order spread all over England ; there were few counties 
into which it did not penetrate. At the time of the 
Dissolution the Cistercian Order had houses at New- 
minster, in Northumberland ; Holme Cultram and 
Calder, in Cumberland ; Whalley and Furness, in Lanca 
shire ; Rievaulx, Byland, Jervaulx, Fountains, Salley, 
Kirkstall, Roche, and Meaux, in Yorkshire; Stan law 
Vale Royal, and Combermere, in Cheshire ; Dieulacres, 
Hulton, and Croxden, in Stafford ; Rufford, in Notting- 


ham ; Louth Park, Kirksted, Revesby, Swineshead, and 
Vaudry, in Lincoln ; Buildwas, in Shropshire ; Garendon, 
in Leicester ; Pipewell, in Northampton ; Sawtre, in 
Huntingdon ; Merivale, Combe, Stoneleigh, and Bordes- 
ley, in Warwick ; Sibton, in Suffolk ; Dore, in Hereford ; 
Flaxley and Hayles. in Gloucester ; Thame and Rewley, 
in Oxford ; Bittlesden and Medmenham, in Bucking 
ham ; Warden and Woburn, in Bedford ; Tilbey, Cogges- 
hall, and Stratford, in Essex ; Boxley, in Kent ; Roberts- 
bridge, in Sussex ; Netley and Beaulieu, in Hampshire ; 
" Waverley, in Surrey ; Bindon, in Dorset ; Kingswood 
and Stanley, in Wiltshire ; Cleve, in Somerset ; Ford, 
Dunkerwall, Newenhall, Buckfast, and Buckland, in 
Devon ; St. Mary Grace, in London ; Quarr, in the 
Isle of Wight ; Tintern, Grace Dieu, and Llanfarnam, 
in Monmouth ; Neath and Margan, in Glamorgan ; 
Whitland, in Carmarthen ; Strata Florida, in Cardigan ; 
Cwmhyre, in Radnor ; Cymmer, in Merioneth ; Strata 
Marcella, in Montgomery ; Valle Crucis and Abercon- 
way, in Denbigh ; and Basingwork, in Flint. But these 
were not all : they were only the houses of principal 
importance ; it is usually calculated that about one 
hundred Cistercian abbeys were dissolved, and there 
were also a great many nunneries there were ten in 
Yorkshire in which the Cistercian rule was observed. 


Of these numerous houses at least three-fourths were 
founded in the twelfth century that is, within a hundred 
years of the first founding of Citeaux itself. There is 
perhaps a reason for it. England in the twelfth century 
was experiencing all the joy and enthusiasm of a great 
and widespread revival of religion. It was all the 
greater, all the more productive of genuine and lasting 
enthusiasm because it was closely allied with a revival 
of national feeling. Green, writing of this renaissance, 
points out the difference between the conditions winder 
which Englishmen in general and Churchmen in par- 


ticular had lived in the first period of the Norman rule, 
and those -which began with the reign though not till 
towards its close, and then not with the wish- of the 
first Henry. " Pious, learned, and energetic as the 
bishops of William s appointment had been, they were 
not Englishmen. Till Beket s time no Englishman 
occupied the throne of Canterbury ; till Jocelyn, in the 
reign of John, no Englishman occupied the See of Wells. 
In language, in manner, in sympathy, the higher clergy 
were thus completely severed from the lower priesthood 
and the people, and the whole influence of the Church, 
constitutional as well as religious, was for the moment 
paralysed. Lanfranc, indeed, exercised a great personal 
influence over William, but Anselm stood alone against 
Rufus, and no voice of ecclesiastical freedom broke else 
where the silence of the reign of Henry the First. But at the 
close of the latter reign and throughout that of Stephen, 
the people, left thus without shepherds, was stirred by 
the first of those great religious movements which 
England was to experience afterwards in the preaching 
of the Friars, the Lollardism of Wyclif , the Reformation, 
the Puritan enthusiasm, and the mission-work of the 
Wesleys. Everywhere in town and countrymen banded 
themselves together for prayer, hermits flocked to the 
woods. Noble and Church welcomed the austere Cis 
tercians ... as they spread over the moors and forests 
of the North. A new spirit of devotion woke the 
slumber of the religious houses, and penetrated alike to 
the home of the noble Walter d Espec at Rievaulx, or 
of the trader Gilbert Beket in Cheapside. . . . We see 
the strength of the new movement in the new class of 
ecclesiastics that it forces on the stage ; men like Anselm 
or John of Salisbury, or the two great prelates who 
followed one another after Henry s death in the See of 
Canterbury, Theobald and Thomas, derived whatever 
might they possessed from sheer holiness of life or 
unselfishness of aim. The revival left its stamp on the 
fabric of the constitution itself : the paralysis of the 


Church ceased as the new impulse bound the prelacy 
and people together, and its action, when at the end of 
Henry s reign it started into a power strong enough to 
save England from anarchy, has been felt in our history 

ever since." 


Before the first settling of the Cistercians in the 
county, Yorkshire possessed few religious houses in 
comparison with the number which sprang up during 
the twelfth-century revival. At what is now Whitby 
and was then Streaneshalh, Hilda, Abbess of Hartlepool, 
had founded a monastery for men and women in the 
year 657 ; destroyed and ravaged by the Danes about 
870, it had lain in ruins for two hundred years, when, 
about 1074, one Reinfried " miles strenuissimus in 
obsequio domini Willielmi " re-established it as a 
priory which was subsequently elevated to the dignity 
of an abbey in 1109. Twenty years previous to the 
last date, a secession from Whitby, under Stephen, 
one of the monks, had resulted in the foundation of the 
great Abbey of St. Mary at York. About the same time 
the Priory of Holy Trinity at York was founded by 
Ralph Paganel, holder of large estates in Yorkshire and 
elsewhere. Thirty years earlier had witnessed the 
founding of Selby Abbey by William the Conqueror 
himself the first great religious house established in 
the North of England since the Conquest. These four 
houses were of the Benedictine Rule. At Pontefract, 
about 1090, Robert, son of Ilbert de Lacy, first builder 
of Pontefract Castle, founded the Cluniac Priory of St. 
John. Three afterwards famous houses of Augustinian 
Canons were established between 1120 and 1130. At 
Embsay, near Skipton, in the first-named year, William 
Meschines and Cecilia, his wife, set up the priory which 
was translated to Bolton, in Wharfedale, thirty years 
later, by Alice de Romilly, their daughter. About the 
same time, 1120, Ralph Aldlaver, confessor to Henry I, 


founded Nostell Priory, on a site which had previously 
been occupied by a congregation of hermits. A year 
earlier, 1119, Guisborough Priory had been founded by 
Robert de Bruce, on the express admonition of Pope 
Calixtus II, who granted the new house its charter of 
confirmation. In addition to these principal Yorkshire 
establishments there were some smaller foundations, 
such as Kirkham, and there were several houses of nuns 
of the Benedictine observance. 



The coming of the Cistercians to Yorkshire is directly 
attributable to St. Bernard and to Clairvaux ; the first 
Cistercian house in the county was not colonized from 
Waverley, nor from any of the new houses which owned 
Waverley as parent ; it sprang direct from the house 
which under St. Bernard s rule was rapidly eclipsing 
Citeaux in fame. Already St. Bernard was looking far 
afield ; doubtless the news of the revival of religion in 
England came to him at Clairvaux ; from Clairvaux he 
sent certain of his monks across the Channel to see 
what could be done in the way of establishing new 
colonies. He wisely chose as their leader one who was 
an Englishman William, eventually first Abbot of 
Rievaulx. William and his little band of associates 
came over about 1130-31, carrying a letter from St. 
Bernard to Henry I, wherein he prayed the King to 
assist these messengers of the Lord to reclaim those 
who had been taken captive in the toils of Satan. Henry, 
in spite of his aloofness to the new English movement, 
is credited with having received the Cistercians graciously 
and to have given them free licence to preach the Gospel. 
Naturally their eyes sought a resting-place wherein to 
set up a house. There were reasons why the North of 
England seemed most favourable to their purpose. The 
South was already well furnished with religious houses : 
from London to Bristol, and southward to the sea, 


abbeys and priories were in plenty ; London alone pos 
sessed at that time thirteen conventual establishments 
and a hundred parish churches ; between Thames and 
Trent there were many houses of religious rule. But 
north of the Trent there still remained vast solitudes ; 
in Yorkshire especially, not yet, nor for some time to 
come, recovered from the terrible harrying of the North, 
there were great tracts of country, destitute of popula 
tion, more lonely than those wildernesses in which 
Citeaux and Clairvaux, La Ferte and Pontigny, had been 
set up. Doubtless William and his monks heard of the 
Yorkshire moors and the Yorkshire dales their soli 
tude, far from the world, would appeal to the Cistercian 
temperament. It may be that some of the new-comers 
journeyed to the North, and looked on its wildness for 
themselves. How wild, how lonely, how sparsely peopled 
Yorkshire then was, we of this age cannot conceive. 
The total population of the county in 1130 cannot have 
exceeded fourteen thousand people, and that is crediting 
it with having doubled itself since the Domesday Survey 
of 1085, which, considering everything, is not very prob 
able. If solitude was the chief thing to be desired, then 
Yorkshire was all that the most solitude-loving monk 
could desire. But before William and his monks jour 
neyed North to a definite settlement, they certainly 
performed a spell of mission-work in the South. William 
himself is said to have wrought great effect by the 
wonderful eloquence of his preaching. And it is probable 
that it was during this period, probable, too, that it 
was in or about the Royal Court in London, that he met 
one Walter Espec, Lord of Helmsley, in the north of 
Yorkshire, a patron of religion who had already founded 
Kirkham Priory, on the banks of the Derwent, for the 
Augustinian Canons, and who now gave to the little 
company from Clairvaux a piece of land in the neighbour 
hood of his own manor ; in loco honoris et vastes soli- 
tudinis, says the Cistercian chronicler. Here, then, is the 
beginning of the history of the Cistercian Order in York- 


shire ; as in the case of Citeaux and its daughter-houses, 
the beginning was of a marvellous swiftness. Rievaulx 
was founded in 1131 ; Fountains in 1132; Byland in 
1143; Jervaulx in 1145 ; Salley in 1146; Roche and 
Kirkstall in 1147; and Meaux in 1150. Thus within 
twenty years the eight great Cistercian Abbeys of York 
shire sprang into existence, and began to exercise an 
influence upon the folk around them which was destined 
to be political and economic and social as well as 



THE unthinking man who on some holiday seeks out 
Fountains or Jervaulx for the purpose of spending a 
few idle hours amongst delightful scenery, and who has 
little conception of what the ruins amongst which he 
picnics really mean, is apt to make some very serious 
mistakes about the past if he allows himself to think 
of it at all. He is not very sure about the old monks 
who once lived in these places ; he has heard that there 
were black monks and white monks, and he is far from 
certain whether the colours mentioned refer to their 
skins or their gowns ; it all happened so very long ago 
that it scarcely seems worth while to waste a thought 
on the matter. But he is very sure of one thing these 
monks were sharp fellows, who had an eye for a pleasant 
situation, and took good care to settle amidst rich 
meadows and fine woodland. They must have had 
money, too, he is sure otherwise how could they have 
built such a mighty church, and the vast buildings 
adjoining it ? He has dim notions that once upon a 
time the roofless sanctuaries blazed with colour ; that 
there was gold and silver in the sacristy ; that a life of 
rare ease was spent within the walls, some fragment of 
which shelters him from the hot sun ; the memory of 
popular pictures, seen in his town art-gallery, is in his 
mind pictures of fat and jolly monks at their wine, or 
knives in hand round a baron of beef, or pulling plump 
fish from a placid river. Of course, he says, it was a 



delightful life : nothing to do but to eat and drink and 
lie in the sun, as he is doing, with all these beautiful 
trees whispering in the soft winds, and the stream 
murmuring at the edge of the carefully kept grounds, 
and a general lotus-eater-like existence in a fine house 
certainly, they were wise in their generation. And 
it was all a long time ago, and there is nothing like it 
now, but . . . they were fortunate fellows, let them be 
black or let them be white. But supposing one were 
to sit down by such a man who is, after all, a type of 
a vast number of us, drawn from more classes than one 
and to tell him quietly that the fair prospect before him 
was made by the monks out of desert and wilderness, 
that they planted the woods, laid out the grounds, tilled 
the fields, improved the herbage, perhaps diverted and 
deepened the river ; that they did all this with strenuous 
labour, and much sweat, and in great privation ; that 
they dressed the stone on which he sits, raised the walls 
which shelter him ; planted, in short, a habitation in 
what had been a solitude would he thank his informant 
for the news ? Far from it his own picture would have 
suffered. It is not of the poor beginnings of the abbey 
that the average man cares to think, but of the abbey 
in all its grandeur and its wealth, with the glamour of 
medievalism on it, and the soft light of romance, and 
a good deal of fancy which has no basis in plain fact. 
Most of us would far rather look on Landseer s con 
ventional Bolton Priory in the Olden Time than on the 
first monks of Fountains making a mess of food from 
the leaves of the trees in Skeldale. 


Of all the eight Cistercian houses of Yorkshire there 
was not one which arose in anything but what people 
would nowadays call a highly undesirable surrounding. 
We are apt to mistmderstand in these matters. We 
read of the pious founder, and of his gift of so many 
carucates of land in this or that dale in the course of 


our travels we reach the place ; we see the ruins of a 
noble cloister, and a massive church, set amidst ideal 
scenes, and we immediately conclude that it was always 
there, or, at any rate, that these things sprang into 
existence as at a touch of the wizard s wand. Moreover, 
we are easily misled as to the precise nature of the 
pious benefactions of the pious founder : the real truth 
about him is that he gave away a very cheap com 
modity. What was the value of nine carucates of land 
in Ryedale, of twenty in Skeldale, of six in Craven, or 
seven in Holderness, in the middle of the twelfth century ? 
What, indeed, was the value of the whole monastic 
lands lumped together in the year 1300 ? Put into plain~l 
language and truthfully, the facts as to the pious founda- 
tions are these a community asked some landowner for 
a site, or he was moved to give them a site ; he gave 
them certain barren, non-producing acres, and left them 
to make the best of his gift. They turned the waste_ 
land into good land ; they planted the trees ; they 
improved the stream ; they made corn grow where 
thistles had sprung unchecked ; they filled the meadows 
with cattle and stocked the uplands with sheep ; they 
quarried the stone and built church and cloister, living 
in mud huts or in wattled cotes in the meantime ; and 
when their labours were done and in equally plain 
language the thing began to pay, the Crown put in 
an appearance, and spoke of tribute in the shape of J 
taxes or forced contributions. We all know that John 
seized the wool of the Cistercians for his brother Richard s 
ransom, granted them "favours for giving it, and then 
demanded equivalents for those favours. We know, 
too, that Richard himself at the Council of Nottingham 
in 1194 took the Cistercian wool or rather, demanded 
it, and was appeased by a pecuniary fine. In 1202, 
when John was actually King, the Cistercian wool was 
again demanded ; it was then, " as before and after," 
remarks Stubbs, " a tempting bait to his avarice, a 
source of profit easily assessed and easily seized." 



But, says the objector, that a man should be asked 
to give, presupposes that those who ask of him know 
that he is well able to give, and the wool affairs of 1194 
and 1 202 are only good proof that the Cistercians were 
by that time flockmasters on an extensive scale. They 
were. By that time they already possessed flocks and 
herds and horses and houses and lands they had passed 
out of the stage of poverty. But each of the Yorkshire 
communities knew poverty intimately in the beginning. 
Some knew it more far more than others, but all 
tasted of it. It was in no land flowing with milk and 
honey that the first house was established at Rievaulx 
on the land given by Walter Espec. Many people are 
familiar with the peculiar beauty of Rievaulx as we see 
it to-day the quiet valleys, the silent moors, the grey 
venerable ruin : let those who do, ask themselves what 
this still solitary bit of country must have been like 
eight hundred years ago ? True, to the nine carucates 
of land, somewhere about his manor of Helmsley, Walter 
Espec had added wood and pannage in the forest. The 
wood would be useful in more ways than one ; so, too, 
would the right of pannage, when they got some swine 
to turn out. But, grand though it seems, what would 
be the value of land anywhere about Helmsley in these 
first days at Rievaulx ? Helmsley then could not pos 
sibly be more than a mere collection of miserable huts : 
as for land in its neighbourhood, it was only sixty years 
since William had harried every Yorkshire acre north 
ward from the line of the Aire and the Calder, and there 
could not have been any great recovery in that time. 
However Rievaulx benefited in later times as it, of 
course, did from Walter Espec s original grant, and 
from his further benefaction in 1145, it would gain 
little profit from his generosity at first, and its original 
community was doubtless as hard put to it as the first 
monks of Fountains were to be a year or two later. 



Nevertheless, in their eyes and quite properly 
Walter Espec remained for ever a noble figure. The 
third Abbot of Rievaulx, Ailred, who was something of 
an historian, and wrote an account of the Battle of the 
Standard, at which Walter Espec fought, left a pen- 
picture of the old knight as he appeared when venerable- 
ness had come upon b-ini, as the first tinge of russet 
comes on the oak. " An old man and full of days," he 
writes, " quick-witted, prudent in council, moderate in 
peace, circumspect in war, a true friend, and a loyal 
subject. His stature was passing tall, his limbs all of 
such size as not to exceed their just proportions, and 
yet to be well matched with his great height. His hair 
was still black, his beard long and flowing, his forehead 
wide and noble, his eyes large and bright, his face broad 
but well featured, his voice like the sound of a trumpet, 
setting off his natural eloquence of speech with a certain 
majesty of sound." It seems sad that the prevalent 
legend as to the founding of Rievaulx should be but a 
legend invented, or put together, on inaccurate in 
formation, by some medieval chronicler. That ran to the 
effect that Walter Espec founded Kirkham, Rievaulx, 
and Warden in memory of an only son who was killed 
by a fall from his horse a legend closely related to that 
of Bolton Priory. But Walter Espec never had a son, 
so far as is known ; Abbot Ailred speaks of him as a 
childless man, and in the foundation charter of Rievaulx, 
amongst the long list of names of those for whose benefit 
the house was established, and for whom, of course, the 
prayers of the brethren were asked, there is no mention 
of the founder s son, as there most certainly would have 
been had he ever possessed one. 


Obscure and poor as the first Cistercian settlers in 
Yorkshire must have been, the fame of their sanctity 


soon reached certain ears in the great Benedictine abbey 
of St. Mary in York. There was dissension there, as 
there had been at Molesme. For the monks of St. Mary s, 
forgetting the rule of their founder Benedict, had fallen 
into great laxity. The story of what was done in those 
days was told, years afterwards, by one Serlo, who, 
though he was well stricken in years at the time of 
telling, possessed, he said, an unimpaired memory, and 
could tell what he had actually seen and known. Some 
time about 1131-32 certain of the monks of York began 
to be sore afflicted in conscience. The rule was not 
being observed ; there were grave fallings-away. The 
conscience-stricken banded themselves together and 
talked of reform : they carried their grievances to the 
prior, Richard, " a religious and God-fearing man, wise 
in worldly matters, a friend of those in power, for the 
reverence due to his piety made him beloved and 
honoured by all " ; Richard, they found, shared their 
distress. He became spokesman to the abbot, to whom 
he seems to have spoken with no lack of candour. 
" How," he asked, " can we be so mad as to call our 
selves monks of the blessed Benedict, who forbids with 
many threats all those things which we in our great 
presumption are not afraid to do ? For while some of 
us go into church after collation, others wander away 
for trifling and useless chatter, as if the malice of the 
day were not sufficient unless that of the night were 
also added. And why recall our extravagance in diet ? 
For many dishes are added over and above what was 
ordered by the blessed Benedict, giving the wicked 
impression that the Rule is best observed where the 
greatest superfluity can be enjoyed. Why should I 
speak of our exquisite delicacies, our variously flavoured 
sauces, our many dainties ? Assuredly new stimulation 
is applied to the full and over-gorged belly, so that, 
while there is hardly a scrap of room left in it, the 
voluptuous desire of eating still grows. The same is 
true of the agreeable and splendid variety of drinks, of 


the elaborate delicacy of raiment. These were not the 
sentiments or the teachings of our blessed Benedict, 
according to whose Rule we make our profession. Let 
us gather together these ill-natured frivolities, this vain 
and harmful gossip, these luxurious feastings, these 
frequent and splendid potations, the other countless 
superfluities, and we shall make a foul and noisome 
heap." Plain words, but there were still plainer to 
follow. " We lust after all things," continued the bold 
prior, " we lose our tempers, we quarrel, we seize the 
goods of others, we claim our rights by lawsuits, we 
protect fraud and lying, we follow the flesh and its 
desires. We live for ourselves, we please ourselves, we 
fear to be conquered, we glory in conquering, we oppress 
others, we shrink from being oppressed, we envy others, 
we glory in our success, we make merry and grow fat 
on the sweat of others, the whole world cannot hold our 
malice." And then he went on to speak of a better 
way. Lately, he said, there had come into these parts 
the men of Clairvaux. How clearly the Gospel had come 
to life again in them ! They were seeking not their 
own, they served not the god Mammon, they desired 
not their neighbours property, they were content with 
the modest culture of their ground and the use of cattle ; 
plainly they were an example. Let the brethren of 
York hasten to follow in these Gospel-like steps, lest 
destruction, speedy and terrible, come upon them. 


Godfrey was Abbot of St. Mary s at that time, and he 
was an exceeding old man. And, says the chronicler, 
he was " not over-pleased with what the prior said, 
for it is difficult to alter long-established habits at the 
sudden appearance of virtue." When he found that 
the prior and those who thought with him were seriously 
thinking of secession, and of setting up a new house on 
the principles of that at Rievaulx, " he was astounded 
at the novelty of the project, and thoiight it terrible 


that in his old age there should happen such unwelcome 
events as the disgrace of his house, the desertion of 
his Order, the ruin of his sons." It is the old story, 
so often repeated hidebound conservatism on one side, 
the desire for reform on the other. And seeing that 
persuasion was of no effect, Abbot Godfrey resorted to 
threats. " He threatened them with the discipline of 
the Order and severe penalties," but, observes the 
chronicler, " their intention was not contrary to the 
Lord s will." The more the abbot dissuaded and 
threatened, the more did the fire burn within them, 
fed with the fuel of fervour and faith. The issue was 
plain let the house be reformed, purged, cleansed, or 
go they would. 


They were not without a friend, these reformers, and 
he was in a high place. At that time Thtirstan was 
Archbishop of York, and he was a personal friend of 
Prior Richard. Prior Richard went to him, and laid 
before him the whole matter, concealing nothing. True 
to their consciences he and his brethren of the reforming 
party would be, no matter at what cost. Then spoke 
the Archbishop, and said this was the work of God and 
not of man, and announced that he would hold a visita 
tion of St. Mary s Abbey, and thereat give his decision. 
Godfrey, fearing what must ensue, prepared for Thur- 
stan s coming. " He sent messengers to the monasteries 
throughout England and called together learned men, 
and collected no small multitude of monks to meet the 
Archbishop." Old as he was, Abbot Godfrey, one 
perceives, was still in possession of his wits he was 
going to try the old game of setting Regulars against 
Seculars. And " when the day came the holy bishop 
appeared in a spirit of gentleness and peace, having in 
his train, as was fitting, grave persons and prudent 
clerics, canons, and others who were monks. The abbot 
met him at the door of the chapter-house, and, sur- 


rounded by a great crowd of monks, refused admission, 
and declared that it was not lawful for him to visit 
them with so great a retinue, or for a Secular to be 
present at the secret meetings of the chapter. Let him 
dismiss the crowd, and enter alone, so that the discipline 
of the Order might not be disturbed by the insolence 
of clerics. The bishop was not willing that his followers 
should be removed, and said that he could not fittingly 
sit alone in so large a meeting without advisers, especially 
as they themselves had admitted many monks from 
distant places. Then the monks and the clergy broke 
out into tumult, and a violent quarrel took place in 
the cloister, one side pushing back, the other side trying 
to get in. On this the holy bishop commanded silence, 
and said, You withdraw from us to-day the obedience 
which you owe. Well, we withdraw that which by 
God s grace you hold from us ; we interdict this monas 
tery and by the authority we possess suspend the monks 
who remain in it from the Sacraments. Having said 
this, he retired and entered the church with his retinue, 
and there followed him that holy band [the reformers], 
separated from the others even as the fat from the lean." 


Thus came about the secession of the Benedictine 
monks from the degenerate abbey of St. Mary at York. 
They were thirteen in number : the old chronicler gives 
their names Richard, the Prior of St. Mary s ; Richard, 
at that time Sacristan ; Ranulph, Thomas, Gamel, 
Hamo, Robert, Geofferey, Walter, Gregory, Ralph, 
Alexander, and another Robert, a monk of Whitby. 
They carried nothing away with them, save the habits 
they stood up in. Accordingly, they were homeless and 
penniless ; they were like to want the next day s bread. 
But " the Lord provided for them : the venerable bishop, 
dealing with them in right episcopal fashion, received 
them into his house, and made provision for them in all 
things which appertained to the comfort of their bodies." 


Meanwhile Abbot Godfrey, " in hatred of the new enter 
prise," wrote multitudinous letters to the whole episcopal 
bench, and to his fellow-abbots, complaining bitterly of 
what had been done. Somewhat to counteract this, 
Thurstan wrote a long letter to the Archbishop of Can 
terbury, setting forth the true facts of the case, and 
prefacing it by the significant remark that (in the case 
of monastic houses) " when wealth comes, virtue fails " 
a sure hint that in his opinion the Benedictines of York 
had been accumulating far too much earthly treasure 
for the good estate of their souls. In the letter he gives 
some account of the thirteen reformers : twelve of -them, 
he says, are priests ; the other is a sub-deacon. Many 
of them are learned men ; all are seeking the true 
observance of their profession and the Gospel, and they 
are not to be deterred from their purpose by any man s 
violence, though their late brethren at St. Mary s are 
still full of rage and hatred. At present, having nowhere 
to go, they are lodged in the house of the blessed Peter 
by which he means York Minster. Finally, he requests 
his brother archbishop, if Abbot Godfrey comes complain 
ing to him, to give him some needed admonition not to 
oppose folk who in very truth seek to obey the Gospel 
of Christ. All of which shows us that in the twelfth 
century there were some very fine, honest, and upright 
Christian gentlemen in England, and that Archbishop 
Thurstan was one of them. 


Nevertheless, not even an Archbishop of York can 
harbour thirteen men for ever, and before Christmas of 
that year came round it was necessary to do something 
for Prior Richard and his little band of faithful. Two 
of the thirteen had been tried by the arts of the Evil 
One. Perhaps, thinks the chronicler, they "had not 
completely armed themselves with the shield of faith 
and prayer." " They yielded to the temptation, returned 
to their flesh-pots, and became a stumbling-block" to 


their friends and a scorn to their enemies." One, how 
ever, came back, and wiped off the stain of his temporary 
apostacy by a new conversion. But the other never 
came back " his belly clave unto the ground." So 
when Archbishop Thurstan repaired to his palace at 
Ripon to keep his Christmas, taking the homeless monks 
with him, there were twelve of them. And at Ripon, 
while they all celebrated the solemn feast, he gave them 
a place wherein they might set up a house. It was, 
says Serlo, in his account given to Hugo, the Kirkstall 
monk, who wrote it all down in the days when John 
of York was Abbot of Fountains (1203-11), "A place 
uninhabited for all the centuries back, thick set with 
thorns, lying between the slopes of mountains and 
among rocks jutting out on both sides : fit rather to be 
the lair of wild beasts than the home of human beings." 
To this doubtful gift for of what present advantage 
was a parcel of such land to men who had neither bread 
nor a penny-piece to buy it with ? Thurstan added the 
manor of Sutton ; it, no doubt, was worth something 
less than Helmsley at that time, which means next to 
nothing. Nevertheless, the new brotherhood now had 
something, and they formed a chapter at Ripon, and 
solemnly debated the election of an abbot " who could 
go in and act before God as father and shepherd of their 
souls." The choice fell on Prior Richard. In him, a 
brave man, we see the first of the long line of Abbots 
of Fountains. No other abbot ever had such a task 
as his was. Monks he had, but he had no home for 
them. Land he had, and it was wild and desolate. 
Money he had none. And it was winter. 


Winter as it was, Abbot Richard and his sons departed 
for Skeldale. There was an elm-tree in the middle of 
the valley ; they made their lodging beneath it, covering 
themselves with straw and litter. Thurstan sent them 
bread ; water from the river was their wine. Neverthe- 


less, cheerful and steadfast, with no sign of gloom, no 
murmuring, but blessing God with all their hearts, poor 
in worldly goods, but strong and rich in faith, they 
kept the rule for whose sake they had forsaken the 
groaning tables and warm soft raiment of York. Night 
and day they stood under their elm and sang the Divine 
Office. By day they toiled hard ; some plaited mats 
and wicker-work ; some gathered and shaped wood to 
make a chapel ; others cleared and cultivated the 
ground. Meanwhile they had written a full account of 
themselves to St. Bernard at Clairvaux; Archbishop 
Thurstan supplemented their letter with one of his own. 
In due course came a reply. This is the Finger of God, 
wrote Bernard, working subtly a wholesome change, not 
turning bad men into good, but good men into better. 
" A most rare bird on the earth," he remarks, " is a 
man who advances even a little from the stage he has 
once reached in religion." But Bernard did more than 
write : he sent to Abbot Richard and his brethren one 
of his own monks, Geoffrey de Amayo, as a visitor and 
counsellor. Serlo says that he himself, while yet a 
secular, saw this emissary. " He was of a great age 
and a modest gravity, a man strenuous in matters 
human and divine." He was received with thankful 
ness and his counsels and advice readily accepted : under 
his tuition the reformers built huts, made workshops, 
tilled the ground. He, on his part, was astonished to 
find such frugality, such obedience, such grave manners. 
They were, he said, strong in faith, rooted in love, 
patient in hope, most long-suffering in poverty. Poverty 
they certainly knew. The community had increased in 
number seven clerics and ten laymen had come to 
join it. But it was still dependent on bread from the 
archbishop ; and before long Thurstan had none to 
give. Famine came on the land ; there was no corn, 
and therefore no bread. " They were driven to the last 
stage of want, and picking the leaves from the trees 
and gathering some lowly field-herbs they added a little 


salt, and cooked pottage for the sons of the prophets." 
And once a wondrous thing came to pass. There came 
knocking at the gate a traveller, a poor man begging 
hard for a morsel of bread in the name of Christ. To 
whom the porter answered that they had no bread. But 
the abbot, finding there was a little bread, which was 
being kept for the carpenters, bade give one loaf to the 
stranger, who took it, and departed. So there was then 
but one loaf and a half left for the entire community, 
and the carpenters must have it, for they were toiling 
harder than the rest. But as the porter let the beggar 
out of the gate, he found there two men from the castle 
of Knaresborough, in charge of a wagon full of fine 
loaves : Eustace, nephew of Serlo de Burgh, had heard 
of their poverty, and had sent to relieve their wants. 
" Truly God was good and faithful in His promises, 
seeing that in return for one loaf of coarse flour He gave 
so many of fine meal." 


One looks on this picture of the first days of the 
Cistercians at Fountains with a vast and deep admira 
tion. Here, indeed, were men who having put their 
hands to the plough were not minded to look back ; 
here were men setting steadfast faces to the great Idea. 
It is not to Fountains as it became in later days that 
we turn with pride, but to the Fountains of the poor 
huts, the wooden chapel, the miserable pittance, the 
truly apostolic lives. Nevertheless, even apostles and 
saints must eat something, lest death come upon them 
before the appointed time. For two years the com 
munity had little to eat. Poverty lay heavy upon its 
members. They had no comfort, says Serlo, save the 
knowledge that the hand of the Lord cannot fail them 
that put their trust in Him. Now Abbot Richard was 
an eminently trusting man, but in the end even he fell 
on despair, for no help came. Perhaps he did not wait 
long enough ; at any rate he at last grew so desperate 


that he made the long journey to Clairvaux, to ask 
Bernard himself what was to be done. There seemed 
no hope of prospering at Fountains : would Bernard 
receive him and his brethren at Clairvaux ? Then 
Bernard, full of compassion, consulting with his own 
monks, decided to give the Yorkshire community a 
refuge on one of the Clairvaux farms, and Abbot Richard 
returned northward to fetch his famishing brethren. 
But in his absence the help which was so necessary had 
come. Hugh, Dean of York, a man of noble birth, fell 
ill, and in his illness, Serlo tells us, God sent into his 
heart the good thought that for the health of his soul 
he should betake himself with all his goods to the 
Cistercians at Fountains. He had many goods. " The 
man was rich, not only in actual money and furniture, 
but in books of the Holy Scriptures, which by the 
guidance of God he had collected with much care and 
expense." So, on his recovery, to Fountains went Dean 
Hugh, carrying his money, his chairs and tables, beds 
and pots, and his library, all of which he placed at the 
disposal of his new brethren. They, seeing in this the 
gift of God, made prudent disposition of the acquired 
wealth. The first part they dedicated to the poor ; the 
: second to building church and cloister ; the third to 
maintenance. And Abbot Richard came back, and the 
days of bitter poverty were over, and the house and 
church of Our Lady of the Springs began to rise in the 
hitherto desolate valley. 

12. BYLAND. 

As it was in the beginning with Fountains, so it was 
in the beginning with Byland. Its first settlers were 
men who wandered much before they found a resting- 
place ; they were, indeed, bandied about from one scene 
to another as if the very earth itself had no wish that 
they should lodge on any part of it. Of their early 
doings, their wanderings, and their privations, a history 
was written by Philip, third" Abbot of Byland (1196), 


who gives as his authorities his predecessor, Abbot 
Roger, and certain aged monks of the community. This 
history was printed by Dodsworth and Dugdale in their 
Monasticon. Its writer begins by remarking that as, 
by the sin of our first parents, human memory has 
become so greatly obscured and clouded that earthly 
actions and events are soon forgotten, unless they are 
committed to writing, it seems well that he should set 
down for the benefit of his successors all that is known 
of the history of their house, as he himself got it from 
Master Roger, " our predecessor of pious memory," 
who, according to the list of the abbots of Byland in 
Mr. Baildon s Monastic Notes (Yorkshire Houses), was 
abbot for fifty-four years 1142 to 1196. Abbot Philip 
then proceeds to tell that in the year 1134 twelve monks, 
headed by a leader, Gerald, whom they elected abbot, 
set out from Furness Abbey and settled at Calder, in 
Cumberland. His story gives one the impression that 
they spent some time at Calder after the fashion of the 
first days at Fountains ; they were, at any rate, only 
just beginning to build church and cloister, when, in 
1137, an invasion of marauding Scots into that part 
drove them away, impoverished and homeless. In this 
distress they made for Furness, trusting in the charity 
of those they had left four years previously. But when 
they came to Furness, the abbot and monks of that 
place, " fearing that strife might follow," denied them 
entrance. From whom they turned away, greatly 
sorrowing and not knowing what to do ; those who 
should have been friends being, so it seemed, no kinder 
than the enemies whose fierceness they had fled. Now 
it may have chanced that some one of them had 
heard of the kindness of Archbishop Thurstan to the 
seceders of York, and mentioned the matter at this 
juncture : to Thurstan they set off from the inhospi 
table Abbey of Furness, on foot, but accompanied by 
an ox-cart, wherein they carried their clothing and 
their little library. 



Here there is a diversity of narrative, for Abbot 
Philip gives two stories. In one he says the monks 
actually went to Thurstan, who sent them to Roger de 
Mowbray. In the other he tells another tale, which 
seems to be the more accepted one. As the little com 
pany drew near to the town of Thirsk, having then 
walked some hundred and fifty miles over exceeding 
rough country, and being footsore and weary, they were 
met by the seneschal of the Lady Gundreda, mother of 
Roger de Mowbray, then a youth, and consequently in 
guardianship of the King (Stephen), as all young noble 
men who had not come of age were in those days. The 
seneschal, moved by their story, led them to his mistress, 
who was so much more moved that out of her pious com 
passion she shed plentiful tears. After which she kept 
them to dinner, and being greatly edified by their de 
meanour and simplicity, she would not permit them to 
depart, but promised to find them, not only a place of 
abode, but means of subsistence. Now Lady Gundreda 
had an uncle, Robert de Alney, a Norman gentleman, 
who, having once been a Benedictine monk of Whitby, 
had left his monastery and settled himself as a hermit 
at Hode (Hood Grange), near the Hambleton Hills. To 
him Gundreda sent Gerald and his companions, and at 
Hode they settled for a. time, and were maintained by 
their kind patron. It would appear that they were 
claimed by Furness while at Hode ; thereupon Abbot 
Gerald journeyed to Savigny, and besought and obtained 
complete " independence of Furness : no doubt he did 
full justice to his story of the treatment he and his had 
received there. This was in 1142. He died at York as 
he returned home, and Roger was elected abbot in his 
place. One of his first deeds was ^to persuade the Lady 
Gundreda that the situation of Hode was not favourable 
for their purposes. Certain relations, or dependents, of 
the Mowbrays had by this time joined the Order, and 


had brought it a little money : Gundreda was, therefore, 
disposed to add to her favours, and she persuaded her 
son to give the new abbot another site. On the Feast 
of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, in the year 1143, 
Roger de Mowbray gave to Roger and his brethren the 
site of Byland and all its appurtenances. 


But this was not the Byland of which we of this day 
may see the ruins. It was Byland-on-the-Moor, now 
called Old Byland. Here the community built a cell 
meaning a chapel and an abiding-place and abode for 
five years. But the situation had disadvantages quite 
as great as those of Hode. It was in close proximity 
to Rievaulx. Perhaps we do not quite see what draw 
back there was in that. But the truth is that the bells 
of Rievaulx disturbed the monks of Byland, and the 
bells of Byland disturbed the monks of Rievaulx. 
" This," says Philip, " was unseemly, and could not in 
any way long be borne." So they migrated again 
this time to a place called Stocking, which appears to 
have been somewhere adjacent to the present villages 
of High and Low Kilburn, at the foot of the southern 
extremity of the Hambleton Hills, and not far from 
Coxwold, afterwards to be famous by reason of its 
connexion with Laurence Sterne. Here they were still 
close to Rievaulx, but separated by a high hill : this 
site, too, was given them by Roger de Mowbray. They 
appear to have meditated a definite settlement at Stock 
ing, for they built a church and cloister of stone. And 
it was during the time at Stocking that the famous 
dispute arose between the abbeys of Calder (which had 
been resettled after Gerald and his brethren fled from 
the Scots) and Furness as to the paternity of the Byland 
monks. The Abbot of Calder set up his claim in 1153 ; 
the Abbot of Furness put forward his claim a little later. 
But the brotherhood of Byland really belonged to the 
Order of Savigny, which had formally joined the Cis- 


tercian Order in 1147, and the Abbot of Savigny claimed 
his own. Eventually the matter was referred to a 
tribunal of English monks, presided over by the Abbot 
of Rievaulx, and judgment being given in favour of 
Savigny, Byland became free of all claim from Furness 
and was formally constituted a Cistercian house. While 
this was going on it had outgrown its days of trial and 
poverty, and in 1177 it made yet one more removal 
the last to the site now familiar to us in the ruins of 
Byland Abbey. And here there was much spade-work 
to be done the ground was a miserable swamp, covered 
with wood. But they cut down the wood and drained 
the land, after a clever fashion of their own, and began 
to build what was to become one of the finest churches 
in the country : there was to be no more wandering 
" ubi, Domino annuente, fceliciter manebunt in seter- 
num," says the chronicler. 


The story of the founding of Jervaulx, the ruins of 
which are now, happily, well taken care of, is told in a 
Latin chronicle which was preserved at Byland, and 
was printed by Dodsworth in the Monasticon. Certain 
matters are not made clear in it, but it gives a fairly 
consecutive narrative of events previous to the final 
settlement of the Jervaulx brotherhood. In the time 
of King Stephen there came into the wild north-west 
of Yorkshire a certain man named Peter de Quinciacus, 
having much skill in medicine, and being accompanied 
by certain monks who, for some reason which does not 
appear, had left the Abbey of Savigny in Normandy, 
of which Peter also seems to have been a monk, or, 
perhaps, a lay-brother. Why they came to the York 
shire dales is not explained, but being there they desired 
to establish a house of religion on Cistercian lines. 
Peter made application to Akarius Fitz-Bardolph, Lord 
of Ravensworth, a sub-feudatory of Alan, Earl of Rich 
mond. Akarius gave him a piece of land at a place 


named Fors, in the valley of the Ure, in that part now 
called Wensleydale. Like most of the gifts of the piotis 
founder of those days, the benefaction was of doubtful 
quality. " The situation was unpromising," says Whita- 
ker, " high in the valley, cold, and exposed to fogs, and, 
therefore, though not unfit for pasturage, ill-adapted to 
the ripening even of barley and oats, for wheat was then 
rarely cultivated even in the low districts north of the 
Trent." Nevertheless, Peter and his brethren made 
shift to live, and even to build, and they were assisted 
by the Earl of Richmond, who seems to have taken a 
pious interest in their doings, and by Roger de Mowbray, 
who gave them some land at Masham. The community, 
however, desired recognition as a definite monastic 
establishment, and about 1146-47, the Earl of Rich 
mond being in Normandy, he sought out the Abbot of 
Savigny, and stated its case, at the same time formally 
handing over Fors to his paternal care. But Savigny 
looked on the far-off bantling with no favour : it had 
heard more than enough of the toils, troubles, embarrass 
ments, and poverty of these new foundations in the 
Yorkshire solitudes, and when Peter wrote asking for 
help, its abbot rated him soundly for his doings, and, 
according to the chronicle, called him a fool. Clearly 
there was no assistance and no recognition of proper 
status to be got from Savigny. 


But soon after this there was a general chapter of 
the Order at Savigny it would seem to have been that 
at which the Savignian houses became merged in the 
Cistercian system and Roger, Abbot of Byland, went 
to Normandy to take part in it. Him Peter entrusted 
with a letter, begging him also to intercede with the 
authorities on behalf of the community at Fors, which 
by this time had contrived to build a wooden chapel 
and some mud-walled huts, and was managing to live 
miserably enough, no doubt. In the end the Abbot of 


Savigny requested the Abbot of Quarr, in the Isle of 
Wight, to visit Fprs and examine matters and prospects. 
To Fors the visitor came, accompanied by Matthew, a 
.monk of Savigny, and the Abbot of Byland. Matthew, 
as an expert, advised that the estate was not sufficient 
for the support of a separate house, and suggested that 
it should be handed over to Savigny. But Peter and 
his brethren objected. Things were improving they 
[ had improved since the appeal to Savigny. " Blessed 
I be God ! " said Peter, appealing to the visitors. " We 
: now possess five carucates of land under the plough ; 
I we have forty cows, with their calves ; sixteen mares, 
: with their foals ; five sows, with their litters ; three 
hundred sheep ; thirty hides in the tannery ; wax and 
oil for two years ; we hope, too, that we shall shortly 
raise a proper supply of ale, cheese, bread, and butter." 
The visitors appear to have acquiesced in this hopeful 
ness, and Peter and his small knot of followers (only 
four are mentioned) made profession there and then. 
But it was not until St. Bernard himself intervened on 
its behalf that Jervaulx was formally constituted. This 
was done at Byland, where John of Kingston was elected 
first Abbot of Jervaulx, and dispatched to Wensleydale 
with nine monks. Even then there was sad trouble. 
The land at Fors was what Whitaker describes it ; 
nothing would grow : Peter s cows, sows, and mares 
. might multiply, but no corn made glad the land. The 
Byland monks sighed for their own place ; some of 
them were for returning, and would have done so if 
they had not been afraid of reproaches. The pious 
benefactor again appeared on the scene with more 
land. Alan, Earl of Richmond, was dead, but his son 
and successor, Conan, was favourably disposed to the 
community, and with the consent of Harveius, son of 
Akarius Fitz-Bardolph, also deceased, he gave the monks 
the more favourable site whereon the church and cloister, 
of which certain remains still exist, was duly built. 


1.7. SALLEY. 

According to the account given by Serlo, the aged 
monk, to Hugo, who set it down, there came to Foun 
tains in the fifth year of its foundation, a .nobleman 
named Ralph de Merlay, who was so touched by what 
he saw there that he forthwith built and endowed on 
his estate near Morpeth, in Northumberland, a monastery 
which was colonized from Fountains, and received the 
name of Newminster. " This," said Serlo, " was the 
first shoot which our vine put forth : this was the first 
swarm which went out from our hive. The holy seed 
sprouted in the soil, and being cast, as it were, .in the 
lap of fertile earth, grew to a great plant, and from a 
few grains there sprang a plentiful harvest. This newly 
founded monastery rivalled her mother in fertility. She 
conceived and brought forth three daughters, Pipewell, 
Salley, and Roche." If the charters given by Dugdale 
(or Dodsworth, who did the work for which Dugdale 
usually gets the credit) are correct, William de Percy, 
the founder of the house at Salley, which was colonized 
by Abbot Benedict and his monks from Newminster in 
1147 or, as some chroniclers say, in 1146 had built 
church and cloister before they came " quam ego ipse 
construxi " ; so the wording runs in two of them. How 
ever, even though they did find a roof over their heads 
when they settled in this wild and lonely stretch of the 
Ribble, under the shadow of the bleak Pennine Range, 
the Cistercians of Salley endured much poverty and 
hardship during the first years of their existence. As 
at Jervaulx, as at Barnoldswick, there was much rain, 
great severity of weather in winter, and land that was 
slow to produce good crops. Although the grant of 
William de Percy was of some extent, it cannot have 
yielded much in money or goods, and within forty years 
of the foundation the abbot and brethren were reduced 
to such straits that they petitioned the general chapter 
at Clairvaux to be permitted to dissolve the community. 
But at this stage, Matilda de Percy, Countess of Warwick, 


daughter and heiress of the founder, came forward, and 
in company with her sister Agnes gave Salley the rights 
of the church at Tadcaster, the chapel at Hazlewood, 
certain charges on the church of Newton, and some land 
at Catton : Agnes added to this land and grazing rights 
at Litton. At a later date another member of the same 
family, Henry de Percy, gave the community the church 
and revenues of Gargrave, but from all one can learn 
of the early fortunes of Salley its days of poverty lasted 
for a long time, probably because it was far out of the 
world and much removed from such markets as then 

1 8. KlRKSTALL. 

At Barnoldswick, near Salley, in an equally wild and 
lonely situation, began the fortunes of the community 
which was soon to be better housed at Kirkstall. The 
accounts of this foundation come from the same source 
Serlo the monk, who in his day had been a Canon of 
York, and by his own confession a possessor of much 
gold and silver, which he handed over to the common 
fund on joining the brotherhood at Fountains. Serlo 
left two accounts one is printed by Walbran in his 
Memorials of Fountains ; the other by Clark in volume iv 
of the Thoresby Society s publications. They practi 
cally correspond, and they are valuable, because their 
author was himself a factor in the setting-up of Kirk- 
stall, and one of the original company which went from 
Fountains to Barnoldswick. But there are certain 
omissions and inaccuracies in the old monk s story which 
Walbran corrects and supplies. As to the actual found 
ing, the facts are clear. Henry de Lacy, Lord of Ponte- 
fract, owner of the great Lacy fee which stretched from 
Lincolnshire to Lancashire, taking in a wide belt of 
middle Yorkshire, being sick for many days, in the year 
1146, made a vow that if God would grant him a safe 
recovery he would build a monastery of the Cistercian 
Order. He was duly restored to health, and he then 


appears to have visited Fountains and conferred with 
its abbot about the proper paying of his solemn vow. 
A piece of land was selected at Barnoldswick, a wild, 
lonely place half-way between the Aire and the Ribble, 
and thither were dispatched certain monks from Foun 
tains, Serlo amongst them, with one Alexander as their 
abbot. " The place of our habitation," says Serlo, " was 
first called Barnoldswick, but we changed the name and 
called it Mount St. Mary. We remained there for some 
years, suffering many hardships through cold and hunger, 
both owing to the inclemency of the weather and the 
continued rain, and because of the disturbed state of 
the kingdom our goods were constantly carried off by 
prowlers." But the good man omits here a certain 
episode in the history of Barnoldswick which, as Walbran 
presents it, reflects little credit on the Cistercians. There 
was in Barnoldswick when they went there an old parish 
church, around which, on Sundays, after Mass, the 
dales-folk were accustomed to gather, as was, and 
remained, the fashion of that part of the country. 
These weekly assemblies were an offence to the monks, 
and Abbot Alexander high-handedly not only pulled 
down the church in order to stop them, but succeeded 
in getting the Archbishop of York and the authorities 
at Rome to approve of his action. Walbran, and before 
him Whitaker, support this story with good evidence, 
but a modern writer in volume viii of the Thoresby 
Society s publications considers it improbable, or, at 
any rate, not altogether correct. 


According to Walbran, Serlo is again in error in telling 
of how the community came to leave Barnoldswick for 
Kirkstall. Because of the inclement situation, and the 
way in which it was robbed, says Serlo, the brotherhood 
became discontented with Barnoldswick, and by the 
advice of the founder " moved to another place." But 
the real facts seem to have been somewhat otherwise. 


Abbot Alexander, having occasion to journey southward, 
chanced, in traversing the middle stretches of the Aire, 
to come across a curious company of hermits who were 
living under one Seleth in a pleasant situation. This 
Seleth had been led from far away in the south by a 
heavenly voice, which bade him journey into the north 
country until he found the valley called Airedale : 
there, at Kirkstall, he was to prepare a house for a 
community which should come. Alexander heard this 
story from Seleth s own lips while his ears were atten 
tive, his eyes were active. He contrasted the fertility 
of Airedale with the sterility of his corner of Craven ; 
he saw wood in plenty, and water in abundance, and 
presently he rode forward to Henry de Lacy, and begged 
for the land on which Seleth and his fellow-hermits were 
living. The land, however, was sublet to William Peyt- 
vin ; by the good offices of Henry de Lacy, Peytvin 
agreed to Alexander s proposals ; Seleth and his com 
pany were got rid of, either by absorption into the 
Cistercian community or by being bought out, and 
Barnoldswick was quickly forsaken. 


Leaving the excellence of the Airedale land and the 
richness of its wood and the abundance of its waters 
aside, how much more suitable in certain respects was 
the Kirkstall site than the Barnoldswick ? Kirkstall, 
as we see it, lies in the midst of one of the most thickly 
populated districts in Yorkshire. But in the middle of 
the twelfth century that part of Airedale was a wilder 
ness, wherein, as the late Professor Phillips says, " the 
deer, wild boar, and white bull were wandering in 
unfrequented woods, or wading in untainted waters, or 
roaming over boundless heaths." Leeds, a few miles 
down the valley, was a small, obscure settlement ; 
Bradford, just over the hill, was no more than a mere 
hamlet, if, indeed, it existed at all ; the great overgrown 
places of to-day, villages in rank, towns in size, were 


possibly represented then by a woodman s hut or a 
swineherd s cot. So far as we know, the situation of 
Kirkstall was as lonely as those of the other Cistercian 
houses of Yorkshire when Abbot Alexander, his twelve 
monks, and his ten lay-brothers came there and began 
building. This was in May 1152, and Alexander 
remained abbot for thirty years longer, and did great 
things before his death. He was the real founder of 
the magnificent church and cloister which still stand 
in majestic ruin on the very edge of the great modern 
city. " Kirkstall Abbey is a monument," says Whitaker, 
" of the skill, the taste, and the perseverance of a single 
man " its first abbot. And if Alexander was somewhat 
to blame in the matter of the priest and people at 
Barnoldswick, he was big-minded enough to make repara 
tion to the folk of that district, for Walbran discovered 
from a charter in the York library that it was at his 
request that Archbishop Henry Murdac raised the 
chapels of Mar ton and Bracewell, near Barnoldswick, 
to the dignity of parish churches. 

21. ROCHE. 

Of the founding of Roche Abbey there are fewer 
particulars than in the case of any of the other Cistercian 
houses in Yorkshire. It stood in the extreme south of 
the county, just outside the edge of the great wood 
which until then had been called the Bruneswald, and 
was afterwards celebrated as Sherwood Forest, the refuge 
of Hereward and the last of the old English, the haunt 
of the perhaps mythical Robin Hood. Its exact site in 
the middle of the twelfth century must have been as 
far removed from men as any of its sister establishments. 
True, Sheffield was not far away on the west, and Tick- 
hill was somewhat nearer on the east, but each was 
then a mere vill, Tickhill, perhaps, the larger of the two 
it certainly exceeded Sheffield in population two hundred 
years later. All between Sheffield and Tickhill was at 
that time a wilderness, little, if at all changed from its 


condition when the neighbouring Conisborough was the 
seat of a Saxon king. Through this solitude meandered 
several small streams ; one of them, rising near the 
present village of Malt by, ran southward to join the 
little river Ryton at Blyth. The land on one side of 
the rivulet belonged to Richard Fitz-Turgis, also called 
Richard of Wickersley ; on the other to Richard de 
Busli, Lord of Maltby, a descendant of the Roger de 
Busli who, after the Norman Conquest, , came into 
possession of most of Earl Waltheof s Hallamshire 
estates and built a castle at Tickhill. These two Richards 
were the pious founders of Roche. According to the 
Monasticon they agreed to give land to the monks on 
each side of the stream on the understanding that the 
house should be built on whichever bank was considered 
most suitable, but that each donor should get as much 
credit as the other, he whose land was rejected being 
held as meritorious as he whose site was favoured. 
According to certain lists of Cistercian houses printed 
in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 
xxxvi, Roche was founded in 1147 : the foundation 
charters, oddly enough, bear no date. It was not known 
until the unearthing of the thirteenth-century chronicle 
of Hugo, the Kirkstall monk, from whence the com 
munity of Roche sprang. Hunter, in his South York 
shire, professed himself uncertain as to whether it was 
colonized from Fountains, from Rievaulx, or from one 
of the great Continental houses. But Hugo s narrative 
tells us plainly that it was one of the three daughters 
of Newminster ; granddaughter, therefore, of Fountains. 
Its first abbot was Durand, of the date of foundation ; 
the second Dionisius, who succeeded in 1159 5 ^n& third 
and fourth, judging by their surnames, were local men 
Roger de Tickhill, 1171 ; and Hugh de Wadworth, 1179. 
As for the actual site, it is a narrow valley, of the type 
so dear to the followers of St. Bernard, shut in on one 
side by picturesque limestone crags one of which, from 
a curious formation, seems to have become an object 


of pilgrimage, and possibly gave a name to the house. 
In the opinion of expert archaeologists, Roche, so far as 
the cloister was concerned, was completely built before 
the death of the second abbot, 1171 ; this may have 
been due to the fact that there were fine stone quarries 
close at hand : the church, of which part of the choir 
and the transepts still remain, is of a later date, and 
probably replaced an earlier and humbler structure. 

22. MEAUX. 

Of the poverty, struggles, and embarrassments which 
beset the Yorkshire Cistercians in their early days, one 
learns more from the chronicles of the solitary Cistercian 
abbey of the East Riding than from those relating to 
the other seven. The monks of Meaux suffered sore 
vexations from money troiibles for a very long period. 
Yet they had great advantages and privileges from the 
very beginning. In the midst of the flat lands of the 
upper stretches of Holderness there was a manor which 
had been given at the time of the Norman Conquest 
to John Meaux, one of the knights who had followed 
William from Normandy ; about 1149-50 John Meaux s 
successors sold it to William le Gros, Earl of Albemarle, 
who already owned most of the land in that part of 
Yorkshire. The Earl was a renowned patron of religion : 
he was the founder of the Augustinian house at Thornton, 
the Cistercian house at Vaudey both in Lincolnshire 
and of a Cluniac abbey in France. Moreover, he was 
pious, and at this time had made a vow that he would 
go on pilgrimage to the Holy Places ; but he was sore 
let, being, as his name implied, a man of exceeding 
weight, neither was he as young and active as he had 
been. A journey of some thousands of miles became 
gradually impossible, nevertheless his conscience afflicted 
him. But there was a certain monk of Fountains, 
one Adam, whom the Earl met at Vaudey, who 
had a suggestion to make on that point. Let the 
Earl discharge his vow by building another house of 


religion, and let it be in Holderness, where as yet 
the Cistercians had no footing. True, a dispensation 
was necessary, but it could be got. Adam got it 
through the influence of Clairvaux. And armed with 
it he journeyed into Holderness, and having satisfied 
the good Earl, began to cast his eyes about him for 
a site. 


The land was table-like in its flatness here were 
none of these valleys so beloved of St. Bernard. But 
at Meaux there was what might with some considerable 
stretch of the imagination be called a hill it was indeed 
then named St. Mary s Hill and instead of being deso 
late and infertile it was rich in wood and pasture ; there 
was also water. Adam came to this hill then ensued 
one of those scenes which are so typical of that time, 
when the words of Holy Writ flew naturally to men s 
lips. The monk, reaching the summit of this lowly 
elevation, broke out into the words of the prophet : 
" The house of the Lord shall be established in the top 
of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the 
hills, and people shall flow into it ! " The thing was 
done ; there was no more to be said ; it was the finger 
of Divine Providence. Here must the Earl make good 
his vow ; here must church and cloister arise. Never 
theless, if the chroniclers say true, the Earl was some 
what discountenanced, for he had cherished very secular 
ideas about that particular place, intending to make a 
fine park there, and had already started- enclosing it 
with a dike, the vestiges of which may be seen to this 
day. But he was a gentleman, so he put his own 
notions aside, and he and Adam began to discuss the 
prosaic features of present and future. Very soon they 
had built a cloister, which, in plain truth, was of mud 
walls, and another building perhaps of better material 
the lower story of which was a dorter, the upper a 
chapel ; and three days after Christmas in the year 


1150, the usual number of thirteen monks arrived from 
Fountains and set up the Abbey of Meaux. Needless 
to say, the first abbot was our friend Adam. 


Meaux, perhaps, from a purely materialistic point of 
view, had the fairest immediate surroundings of any of 
the Yorkshire Cistercian houses at the time of establish 
ment. While all the others were in dreary thorn-strewn 
wilds, it stood amidst cultivated land, six carucates of 
which it owned under the Earl s generous endowment. 
But all outside that enclosed space was solitary enough 
in those days. True, there was Beverley not far away, 
and Beverley was already an ancient, grey town, rich 
in memories of St. John and of King ^thelstan : there 
were also some small religious houses in the neighbour 
hood. But most of that part of Holderness was then 
morass and swamp ; Hull was scarcely in existence ; 
Hedon, the principal port of the Humber, was many 
miles away across country ; there were no markets. 
Now markets were strictly necessary to the Cistercians 
if they were going to prosper, for they depended much 
on the sale of their produce. We need scarcely go as 
far as Fuller, who said of the followers of Stephen 
Harding and Bernard that they were better farmers 
than monks, but it is quite certain that if they had not 
grown much produce, and known how to turn it into 
money, they would never have become as wealthy as 
they did. They appear to have begun farming here at 
Meaux as soon as they settled within their first mud- 
walled cloister " the abbot and the monks," says the 
chronicler of Meaux, Abbot Thomas Burton, who ruled 
from 1396 to 1399, but about whose proper election 
there was much dispute, " began to seek their daily 
food by the works of their hands, eating their bread by 
the sweat of their face, and levelling the vineyard of 
the Lord of Hosts by their blood. The country folk 
flocked to them, some to help, others for conversion ; 


for the dull people wondered to see the hooded race 
performing at some times the Divine Office and at others 
occupied with rural works. But the monks progressed 
daily in necessaries and building, and every day their 
number was increased " ; yet in spite of their efforts 
they were hard put to it to exist even on bare rations 
cut down to the minimum. Two causes contributed to 
this. The pious founder gave the community too much 
land to begin with, and Abbot Adam gathered too many 
monks and lay-brothers about him. His abbacy was 
by no means a success. It became increasingly difficult 
to feed and clothe the inmates. So sorely were -they in 
need of garments at one time that the abbot distributed 
his own poor raiment amongst those who were worse 
off, and went about with but a single wrapping on him. 
Eventually the community was obliged to disperse in 
part : some going to one house of the Order, some to 
another. As for the zealous abbot, he retired to the 
Gilbertine house at Watton, not far away, and lived the 
life of an anchoret, under the Priory Church, in a cell, 
or anchorage, of his own devising, seeing no man, and 
doubtless meditating on the inscrutabilities of Divine 
Providence. However, he came out from his retreat 
at the expiration of seven years, and went back to 
Meaux as a monk, and there, many years later, he died. 


Of all the eight Cistercian houses of Yorkshire, Meaux 
is most lost to us of this time. Beyond a few stones, 
let into the walls of the neighbouring farmsteads and 
cottages, nothing is left : the work of destruction in the 
sixteenth century was here carried out to an unusual 
degree of completeness. Accordingly we know nothing 
of the architecture of Meaux. Nor do we know much 
of the cloister life of its first inmates. But in the 
chronicles of Abbot Thomas Burton we find plenty of 
information about another side of the life up to the end 
of the fourteenth century. And if the plain truth be 



_ . , . ^ ,Ht>iv^ttoatir*",:v -- vjvx i5 

^^r5W^^Ta^6^ M) ^/^,ClJ3><Wfi(^2paAcS^^^r^./K^ff {BHJ&roZfc ^^f, -i V 
Qcic9.ks.l ZZT3tKSy> 8-ujJ aCftJ (SSTJfopwfriSFjlOT <sa<^^>tl^i^L4K^ V ; : : ;,;: : > : . 

*&~*u*,* *f* , ^m t .t*-r.U.C.* < * OB TiC>-. ...j^i-* ^*.5iLc..5 a^.Q^A^- jy.^_r..-. j^A-^jW^JCgift \ LJ^ -V ^ - :-^" r - 



ota 1 giarvfMf Biff^piKf gu>c!pfk-i^Cww)8^r-SR4"wt {iar-Ti<!ft<rg|^^ffi : ^*v ; ;^^ 

nv{lC<5>i i"1 f3.i$oVifi\>Tfdti<f atwfhr>>v ftifltS* ^35U^ftoa> aeMrteHi** ..-. . . ; f;T.l 

* /^T^ , - . **^ . . , , I ^ "7- * * ^ i*it** >--- " : " * ; " *" -" r -, " 

<HJtfUa-f}.<9r};infri9 ^lo&tr-Hwwxi^aj-^jJniferu - fi^sft 6a*^S^aiift^^^S^^.x^^^ :> , : 

^,-_ _. .. j^i._ ... ~^a_..._ ^.^ .~ . gji^i 

atii tu>>v ^5t>9- *i <h .fi-tn^jSi* eaBrg 



for the dull people wondered to see the hooded race 
performing at some times the Divine Office and at others 
occupied with rural works. But the monks progressed 
daily in necessaries and building, and every day their 
number was increased " ; yet in spite of their efforts 
they were hard put to it to exist even on bare rations 
cut down to the minimum. Two causes contributed to 
this. The pious founder gave the community too much 
land to begin with, and Abbot Adam gathered too many 
monks and lay-brothers about him. His abbacy was 
by no means a success. It became increasingly difficult 
to feed and clothe the inmates. So sorely were -they in 
need of garments at one time that the abbot distributed 
his own poor raiment amongst those who were worse 
off, and went about with but a single wrapping on him. 
Eventually the community was obliged to disperse in 
part : some going to one house of the Order, some to 
another. As for the zealous abbot, he retired to the 
Gilbertine house at Watton, not far away, and lived the 
life of an anchoret, under the Priory Church, in a cell, 
or anchorage, of his own devising, seeing no man, and 
doubtless meditating on the inscrutabilities of Divine 
Providence. However, he came out from his retreat 
at the expiration of seven years, and went back to 
Meaux as a monk, and there, many years later, he died. 


Of all the eight Cistercian houses of Yorkshire, Meaux 
is most lost to us of this time. Beyond a few stones, 
let into the walls of the neighbouring farmsteads and 
cottages, nothing is left : the work of destruction in the 
sixteenth century was here carried out to an unusual 
degree of completeness. Accordingly we know nothing 
of the architecture of Meaux. Nor do we know much 
of the cloister life of its first inmates. But in the 
chronicles of Abbot Thomas Burton we find plenty of 
information about another side of the life up to the end 
of the fourteenth century. And if the plain truth be 


told, there is little, if anything, in these chronicles to 
show that those concerned in them had any great interest 
in the matter which primarily brought the community to 
gether. There is nothing about religious life it is all a 
setting forth of the worldly affairs of the brotherhood 
sheep, mills, land, lawsuits about possession ; one would 
think that things had so degenerated as to have already 
reached that stage of which Prior Richard so strenuously 
complained to Abbot Godfrey at York. The chronicles 
and chartularies of the other houses are, unfortunately, 
of a similar nature, but at a later stage in the case of 
Meaux, from almost the very beginning, worldly affairs 
seem to have occupied the attention of the abbot and 
monks in a degree which would have made St. Bernard 
lift his hands, not in supplication, but in fiery reproof. 

26. DEBT. 

We have already seen that Adam, first abbot, how 
ever zealous he may have been as a monk, was not over- 
gifted as a business man. Probably no building of stone 
was done in his day. His successor, Abbot Philip, began 
a stone church and dorter ; the third abbot, Thomas, 
pulled these down and replaced them, bringing stone 
from near Brantingham, by water, along the Humber 
and up the Hull. During the next hundred years much 
building in stone was done ; after about 1250 the orna 
mental work began to be taken in hand : by the end 
of the fourteenth century, judging by the accounts in 
the chronicles, house and church were not only fully 
equipped, but decorated much more than was in accord 
ance with the original Cistercian constitutions. Mean 
while the community had experienced much financial 
trouble. Certainly it was not always their own fault 
that the monks of Meaux were embarrassed. During 
the time of the third abbot, Thomas, in the reign of 
King John, they were called upon for contributions of 
a heavy sort, and had to sell their wool, their plate, and 
their treasure to such an extent that they were ruined. 


For some time they were dispersed : it was only through 
the coming of a new and rich member, William Rowley, 
Vicar of Cottingham, that they were able to reassemble. 
But much of their poverty arose from an evident over- 
desire to accumulate wealth, for they were always 
engaged in lawsuits, and the expenses were great. They 
had many lawsuits before the house was fifty years old. 
Debts began to accumulate ; they went on growing ; 
Meaux was never free of debt for the greater part of 
its history ; it came to possess considerable store of 
property and chattels, having in 1280 as many as 11,000 
sheep and 1000 head of cattle, but it was always short 
of money. When the eighth abbot, Michael, lay dying, 
the monks asked him three questions : Should they go 
to law with St. Mary s of York about the fishing rights 
in Hornsea Mere ? Should they transfer a grange to 
another site ? Should they cut down a wood to build a 
new ship ? He answered "No" to each question; they 
cast his advice aside in each case. By 1270 the house 
was in debt to the extent of 3700 ; this was during the 
abbacy of Robert de Skyren. His next few successors 
reduced this considerably, but fifty years later there was 
still a debt of 500, and there was not much farm stock 
to show. The lawsuits continued ; the community must 
have wasted a fortune in lawsuits. Under Abbot 
William, or Walter, de Dringhou (Dringhouses), the 
debt fell to So, but when Abbot Thomas Burton, the 
chronicler, resigned, and retired to the more peaceful 
atmosphere of Fountains, it had gone up again to 400. 
And when all due consideration has been paid to the 
facts of the greediness of the Crown, and the exaction 
of Papal fees, and the difficulty of converting goods 
into money, one cannot get away from the other fact that 
in the idea of its first founders, men of holy life like 
Stephen Harding and Bernard of Clairvaux, the Cis 
tercian Order was not set up to busy itself with gold, 
and silver, and the perishable things of this world. 



Never was the example of the saints of Citeaux and 
Clairvaux so well followed, never was the Cistercian 
ideal so worthily made evident before men, as in the 
first days of poverty wherein at Fountains and at Jer- 
vaulx, at Barnoldswick and at Byland, the early settlers 
kept the Rtile, roofless and hungry. " The world is 
crucified unto us, and we unto the world," said Prior 
Richard, when he stood before the lax Abbot of York 
and pleaded for reform ; he proved his words when he 
and his brethren gathered, empty of belly, starved, and 
cold, under the elm in Skeldale, to sing the Divine 
Office. Enthusiasm, piety, charity went hand in hand 
in the first days wherein there was often no bread and 
the only coverlet was the silent heaven. And it was 
in these days that the first colonies went forth from 
Rievaulx to Warden, in Bedford ; to Revesby, in 
Lincoln ; to Ruffbrd, in Nottingham ; to Melrose, in 
Scotland ; from Fountains to Newminster, and to Kirk- 
stead, and to Kirkstall, and to Vaudey, and to Meaux, 
and to Louth ; even to Lyse, far off across the North 
Sea in Norway. As these daughters sprang from parent 
houses alive with enthusiasm, so they, too, endowed 
their children with a like burning zeal. Whatever their 
successors became, the first English Cistercians, like the 
first followers of St. Francis of Assisi, were not concerned 
with the things of the world. Prior Richard and his 
twelve brethren, following Archbishop Thurstan to Ripon 
that first Christmas, were indeed literal beggars. Did 
it ever pass through the mind of that saintly first Abbot 
of Fountains, as he stood shivering under his elm in 
the bitter winter of 1132, that where he then looked 
on his hungry yet steadfast brethren there was to rise 
the grandest and richest cloister in Yorkshire ? There 
is but one answer No ! 




ONE of the greatest of Yorkshiremen, who was also the 
greatest of English historians, the late Bishop Stubbs, 
said of the thirteenth century that it was the Golden 
Age of English Churchmanship. Another historian 
whose labours lay in a different field, but who was 
eminently trustworthy and illuminative, the late Dr. 
Jessopp, supplemented this by affirming that it was 
also the Golden Age of English monachism. " We know 
much more about the monasteries and their inner life 
during this period than at any other time," he writes. 
" The materials ready to our hand are very voluminous, 
and the evidence accessible to the inquirer is very 
various. I do not believe that any man of common 
fairness and candour who should give some years to 
the careful study of those materials and that evidence 
could rise from his examination with any other impres 
sion than that, as a body, the monks of the thirteenth 
century were better than their age." This is a sound 
judgment. When the thirteenth century dawned the 
monastic communities had, for the most part, got over 
the troubles, privations, and embarrassments of the 
twelfth. They had built their cloisters and their 
churches, or were carrying the architectural work to a 
triumphal conclusion. Their position in the land was 
assured. Gifts and benefactions had made it certain 
that they would never lack bread. They were settled. 
And if the early enthusiasm had lost some of its fire, 



it had simmered down to a steadily preserved warmth, 
which permeated the whole body and was manifest 
everywhere. For at least a hundred years from the 
time of Magna Charta no serious reproach could be 
brought against the monastic Orders, which shared in 
its concessions in common with all other Englishmen. 


The thirteenth century was truly a Golden Age of 
English Churchmanship, and for many reasons. Great 
things had gone before it. The memory of Anselm was 
still kept green : Beket was perhaps more powerful in 
death than in life. But the end of the twelfth century 
had brought about a fall, a decline only possible under 
such a ruler as King John. Church and State alike had 
been cast into the mire : we Englishmen can never be 
sufficiently grateful to the men whose strong hands lifted 
them out and set them on a firm foundation. We have 
been apt to confuse things schoolboys, even of this 
age, carry away the idea that John gave the charter 
of liberty to the nation. But Magna Charta possesses 
its real significance in the fact that the leading Church 
man of the age was the first man to sign it when the 
King s unwilling fingers had signed under compulsion ; 
the writing which Englishmen should gaze on with 
reverence is not John s, but Stephen Langton s. In 
the first article the keynote of the Church s liberty is 
struck, once and for all. " Let the Church of England 
be free, and have her rights intact, and her liberties 
uninjured." If we pride ourselves on our freedom, if 
we value our liberty, it is to a thirteenth-century Arch 
bishop of Canterbury, champion of the rights of State 
as well as of Church, that we must turn with gratitude 
for the first bestowal. Not from a weak and dastardly 
King, but from a strong and great Churchman, came the 
liberties of the nation. 



The thirteenth century was rich in great Churchmen : 
rich, too, in their infinite variety. Dean Stephens, in 
his History of the English Church. 1066-1272, divides 
them into classes. There was the medieval type of 
saint St. Hugh of Lincoln (though he, to be sure, died 
as the century was born, and should therefore be credited 
to its predecessor) ; St. Edmund Rich, Archbishop of 
Canterbury ; St. Richard of Wyche, Bishop of Chichester, 
three great prelates " profuse in almsgiving, indifferent 
to worldly honour, fearless in reproving wickedness and 
wrongdoing in high places, happiest in seclusion, study, 
and devotion." There was the statesman-ecclesiastic, 
like Stephen Langton and Ralph Neville " able, upright, 
patriotic men . . . leaders of the nation in difficult 
critical times." There was the expert financier in Peter 
de Roches, Bishop of Winchester, who, " a hard, un 
scrupulous man " in many ways, saw to the good condi 
tion of his diocese, and founded many houses of religion. 
Perhaps there was no corresponding figure to that of 
Hugh de Puiset, who in the twelfth century was Bishop 
of Durham, Earl of Northumberland, and of a degree 
of personal ability and magnificence rare in any age. 
" Of commanding stature, handsome countenance, elo 
quent speech, attractive manner, whatever he did was 
on a grand scale. He was a great builder, a great 
hunter, a great shipowner, living in sumptuous style . . . 
as a politician, ambitious, intriguing, and cautious." 
Yorkshiremen of his period knew something of him 
because of his connexion with Howden, where the Prince- 
Bishops of Durham had a residence. But the thirteenth 
century produced a far greater ecclesiastic than Hugh 
de Puiset in Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, who 
cannot be ranged with men like his predecessor, Hugh 
of Avalon, nor with Stephen Langton, nor, indeed, with 
any other type of Churchman. " He stands out by 
himself an almost unique character, a kind of intel- 


lectual giant, a scholar of extraordinary range of know 
ledge, being almost equally distinguished in theology, 
philosophy, mathematics, and physics. He was a wise 
and vigorous ruler of his diocese, a reformer of abuses 
in the Church, who feared the wrath neither of king 
nor pope, and a patriotic citizen who supplied Simon de 
Montfort and the leaders of reform in the State with 
sound principles of action. No English Churchman of 
his time was so strenuous and zealous in upholding the 
rights of the English Church as this great Bishop of 
Lincoln, whose last utterances were spoken in protest 
against the enormities and exactions of the Roman 


It was in the thirteenth century that the Friars came. 
There was need of them. We have the testimony of 
Grosseteste himself that the indolence and negligence of 
the secular clergy gave rise to innumerable evils and 
filled him with despair. When the Papal Legate, Otto, 
Cardinal Bishop of Palestrina, held his famous Council 
in London in December 1237, no fewer than twenty- 
four causes of complaint were tabulated. Mr. A. L. 
Smith, in his Ford Lecture on Church and. State in the 
Middle Ages, says the state of things revealed bears out 
the picture drawn in the Gemma. Ecclesiastica of Giraldus 
Cambrensis which work, it should be remembered, 
deals only with the condition of things amongst the 
secular clergy, who, as Mr. Smith says, were as yet far 
behind the monastic showing a clergy slack, ignorant, 
backward, unspiritual, illiterate, gamblers, brawlers. 
Golden as the age was in respect of certain fine features 
at the top, it was of undeniable dross in some of its 
lower strata. If there was no complaint to be made of 
the monasteries, it was yet the fact that the monastic 
Orders were not in touch with the people. Educating 
and civilizing centres though they were, they were far 
out of the world ; their influence only extended to those 


within their confined areas. Perhaps there was no great 
need for improvement in the rural districts the country 
parson appears to have been of a better type than his 
fellow of the town. But in the towns now growing 
there was dire need of mission work. A great class of 
poor, unfriended folk had come into being sickness 
and disease ran riot amongst them. Their bodily welfare 
was as much neglected as their spiritual needs were 
unprovided for. To these people the coming of the 
Friars, Dominican and Franciscan, and especially of the 
Franciscan, was as the arrival of a food-ship to a starving 
city. Whatever the Friars degenerated into in after 
years, let no man ever forget what and who they were 
at their first coming. " Bareheaded, barefooted, clad 
in raiment of the coarsest stuff, depending for their 
daily food on the alms or hospitality of the charitable, 
they brought words of Christian hope and consolation 
to the sin-laden and sorrow-stricken, they tended the 
sick and dying, they washed the sores of the homeless, 
outcast, excommunicated leper." Reaching England, 
the Dominicans in 1219, the Franciscans in 1224, both 
Orders had settled in various places in Yorkshire by the 
middle of the century, at Hull and at York, at Ponte- 
fract and at Beverley, at Richmond and at Scarborough. 
And had one lived in those days and sought in one of 
those medieval towns for the Franciscan Friary, it 
would have been found in the very heart of the poorest 
and dirtiest and most neglected quarter of the town. 


In spite of the condition of the secular clergy as 
revealed by Giraldus and at the Council of 1237, Church 
life and matters in Yorkshire during the thirteenth 
century were improved and revivified to a wondrous 
extent. The century witnessed the lives and labours of 
two great Archbishops of York Walter Gray and Walter 
Giffard. It saw the building of many of the magnificent 
churches of the county. York Minster was slowly rising 


into grandeur under men like Gray himself ; no English 
cathedral owes more to its chief pastors than York. 
The county was already becoming famous for its archi 
tectural splendours for Beverley and Ripon, Halifax 
and Rotherham, Hemingborough and Tickhill, Hedon 
and Patrington, Wakefield and Howden. As the great 
Minster of York rose within Bootham Bar, so, too, rose 
the new and splendid Abbey of St. Mary s, without the 
walls. All over the county the people were restoring 
the old parish churches, building new ones, ornamenting, 
decorating ; parish vying with parish, guild with guild 
it was an age of pious emulation. The mere stone-and- 
mortar evidences of religion began to be seen on all 
hands. The town bridge had its chapel ; chantries were 
built at the corners of the markets ; the wayside shrine, 
the cross by the highway, were never far to seek. Here 
and there, in the midst of what would then be considered 
a crowded population, rose the towers of a great monastic 
house like the Benedictine abbey of Selby, or the 
Carthusian monastery of Hull, or the Cluniac priory of 
St. John of Pontefract. And in the wildnesses of the 
dales, far away as yet from even the nearest town, 
Rievaulx and Fountains, Jervaulx and Kirkstall, Roche 
and Salley, Byland and Meaux were no longer humble 
settlements of mud walls, wooden chapels, and lath-and- 
plaster makeshift, but fair and stately homes of ordered 
religion, set in the midst of cultivated land and growing 


The first Cistercians were all gone by this, and others 
had succeeded them. Many of the first had been 
foreigners, men from Clairvaux, or Pontigny, or Savigny, 
who had come to the wild north country, lived out 
their lives in its solitudes, and been laid to rest in quiet 
graves. But the new men were English. Who were 
they, of what class ? We may say that it matters not 
of what class, since all men are equal in religion. But 


there is a significance in the question, if we would know 
what make of men these monks of that period were. 
In endeavouring to answer it satisfactorily we cannot 
do better than turn once more to Dr. Jessopp, who 
declares that the impression left upon his own mind, 
after a careful examination of the subject, is " that the 
thirteenth-century monk, as a rule, was drawn from the 
gentry class, as distinguished from the aristocracy on 
the one hand, or the artisans on the other. In fact, 
mutatis mutandis, that the representatives of the monks 
of the thirteenth century were the Fellows of Colleges 
of the nineteenth before the recent alteration of Univer 
sity and College Statutes came into force. An ignorant 
monk was certainly a rarity, an absolutely unlettered or 
uneducated one was an impossibility, and an abbot or 
prior who could not talk and write Latin with facility, 
who could not preach with tolerable fluency on occasion, 
and hold his own as a debater and man of business, 
would have found himself sooner or later in a very 
ridiculous and very uncomfortable position from which 
he might be glad to escape by resignation." 


So, on the testimony of a learned scholar, we may 
safely believe that the new inmates of the eight Cistercian 
houses of Yorkshire were most of them, or, at any rate, 
many of them, Yorkshiremen, drawn from that gentry 
class of which Dr. Jessopp speaks a class which for 
many a hundred years has always given its sons in 
considerable numbers to the Church and the learned 
professions. But, as a matter of fact, we know that 
many of them were Yorkshiremen ; there is no need, 
after all, to resort to imagination or to discuss proba 
bilities. We have only to turn to the lists of members 
of the various communities. In the chartularies and 
coucher books of the abbeys there are countless names 
of the monks : appended to the Christian name or the 
religious name is the surname, which is so often merely 


the name of the place its owner sprang from. Let us 
look at the lists of the abbots of the Yorkshire houses 
any time from the end of the twelfth century onwards. 
Byland has Adam of Husthwaite, Walter of Dishforth, 
Robert of Helmsley ; Fountains William of AUerton, 
Henry of Otley, Walter of Coxwold ; Jervaulx John of 
Newby, Peter of Snape, John of Brompton ; Kirkstall 
William of Leeds, John of Topcliffe, John of Bardsey ; 
Meaux Richard of Thornton, Roger of Driffield, William 
of Scarborough ; Roche Adam of Giggleswick, John of 
Aston, William of Tickhill ; Salley Thomas of Driffield, 
John of Etton, William of Ingleton. The roll of the 
thirty-six abbots of Rievaulx is not prolific in these 
place-names, but its abbots had such names as Burton, 
Spencer, Bromley, Elmsley all well known to York 
shire. As for the family names of monks, one has only 
to consult deeds and charters to know where the inmates 
of the Cistercian houses sprang from any time between 
1 200 and 1539. They came, as Dr. Jessopp says, largely 
from the gentry class of the county. 


Being there, then, settled down in their dearly loved 
valleys, their cloisters built, their churches finished, what 
was their object ? Idleness, says the scoffer : idleness, 
superstition ; poverty their lot, maybe, at first ; riches 
and luxury, certainly, and perhaps worse things, later 
on. Oddly enough, Thomas Carlyle, anything but a 
lover of monks, as monks, and a great hater of all shams, 
tells us in a certain passage in Past and Present, precisely 
what the object was : " Imperfect as we may be, we 
are here, with our litanies, shaven crowns, vows of 
poverty, to testify incessantly and indisputably to every 
heart, That this Earthly Life and its riches and possessions, 
and good and evil hap, are not intrinsically a reality at 
all, but are a shadoiv of realities, eternal, infinite ; that 
this Time-World, as an air-image, fearfully emblematic, 
plays and flickers in the grand still mirror of Eternity ; 


and man s little Life has Duties that are great, that are 
alone great, and go up to Heaven, and down to Hell. This, 
with our poor litanies, we testify, and struggle to testify." 
But in order to testify, even with no more than singing 
of poor litanies, there must be order and system amongst 
communities of men assembled for such purpose, and 
while the Cistercian idea was, as Carlyle, in his own way, 
expresses it, a supernatural one, the Cistercian mind 
provided for due earthly regulation in an eminently 
businesslike fashion. Now that these Yorkshire houses 
are fairly settled and established, it is time we looked 
into their arrangements, inspected their life we can 
perform that task in no better way than by review 
ing the duties and responsibilities of the chief officers 
of a Cistercian abbey always bearing in mind that 
however near we seem to stand to them, there is in 
reality a gap of seven hundred years between us of 
this twentieth century and the Fountains or Kirkstall 
of the thirteenth. 


The abbot, as his name implies, is the father of the 
monastic family. The whole system is based on the im 
plication of implicit obedience to his paternal authority. 
Even as our Lord was to His disciples, so the abbot is 
to be to those placed under his rule master. By his 
subjects he is elected there are three methods : by 
vote ; by compromise ; by acclamation. In the first, 
each monk votes ; the votes are counted by scrutiny. 
In the second, by agreement ; a certain number of the 
inmates the number may be one only is chosen to 
make appointment. In the third, the recipient of this 
highest honour is elected by general opinion. Once 
elected, the new abbot is led in procession to the church, 
where his election is duly proclaimed and Te Deum sung 
solemnly. Then he goes to his lodging to await eccle 
siastical examination as to fitness, which is duly followed 
by confirmation and installation. This, of course, is a 


great ceremony. Barefoot, he presents himself at the 
church door. The whole community meets him. He 
is led to the high altar. There, at its foot, he prostrates 
himself. Once more 1e Dewn is sung : at its conclusion 
he is led to his abbatial seat, the proper instruments of 
election and confirmation are read, and the brotherhood 
charged to render their new head all canonical obedience. 
One by one the members approach and receive from 
him the kiss of peace : that done, standing at the high 
altar, he pronounces a solemn blessing. Now he is 
abbot, and the house has a head once more. All honour 
and respect are to be shown to him. All stand in chapter 
or frater until he has seated himself ; whomsoever he 
passes by must stand and bow. He himself, being what 
he is, is to preserve dignity while he remembers courtesy. 
Certain peculiarities appertain to his position. At Office 
his place is farthest from the altar, the others being 
between him and it ; at Mass his place is nearest, so 
that he may make the oblations and give the blessings. 
Ifj in any of the functions, he makes a mistake, and, 
following the monastic rule, stoops to lay his hand on 
the ground in penance, all present rise and bow. His 
privilege is to read the Gospel ; to give the blessings 
whenever he is present ; to bless the book of the Gospels, 
and the incense, and to put the incense in the thurible 
for the officiating priest. When his name chances to be 
read in chapter, all heads are inclined : when he says 
Mass the altar has two lights instead of one. In the 
Cistercian days of simplicity he sleeps in the dorter 
with the rest ; if the bell has to be rung for some com 
munal duty, he either rings it himself, or stands by the 
ringer. He alone of all the house may ask for a special 
dish at dinner ; sometimes he sends such a dish to a 
brother whom he thinks is in need of it ; the brother 
must rise and bow his thanks. He entertains guests ; 
to such entertainments he may bid any of the brethren. 
If he is away for more than three days, the brethren 
receive him with kisses on his return ; if he is absent 


for some time they sing Te Deum in the church as soon 
as he gets back. He himself has rules to bear in mind 
he must give help, he must instruct, he must stimu 
late, he must cheer ; the sick must be his especial care. 
And in all things he must remember, day in and day out, 
that he himself is nothing, and that the honour paid in 
his person is to his office and to Christ, reverenced in 


The prior is, as it were, the foreman of the monastic 
workshop. The elder members of the community have 
a good deal to do with his selection, but his definite 
appointment rests with the abbot. He comes next to 
the abbot in everything : the honour paid to him is 
only less in degree than that rendered to his superior. 
In chapter and frater he is received standing ; neverthe 
less, he is to be humble, kindly, an example, " first 
among the first, last among the last." He has much to 
do. He is the disciplinarian, the mainstay. One 
monastic rule bids the prior remember that as the abbot 
is father of the family, so the prior is its mother. But 
there is to be nothing of the old woman about him he 
is essentially a business man. Moreover, he must have 
his eyes everywhere ; another rule says, " the peace of 
the house depends upon him." He has certain duties 
of a police-like nature. Before the night office, it is 
his task to take a lantern, look into the dorter to see 
that no man has overslept himself, to go round cloister 
and chapels and to make sure that no brethren are 
nodding in dark corners, and that all is ready for the 
services. When the community has retired for the night, 
after compline, he must take his lantern once more and 
go round the house : he must lock all the doors and 
carry the keys with him to the dorter. There he must 
wait by his bed until all the others are safely between 
their coverings, after which he may himself lie down. 
Truly, as one writer has already observed, the prior 


must possess " the patience of holy Job and the devotion 
of David." 


He has, however, an assistant. The sub-prior is 
appointed by the abbot on the prior s nomination. He 
has no very particular rank, nor any very important 
duties, of himself. He is, in short, a sort of convenient 
stop-gap : if abbot and prior happen to be away, at the 
same time, he becomes presiding authority. Neverthe 
less, he is at all times to keep his eyes open as regards 
the order and discipline of the house, and he has con 
siderable power in giving permission to do this or refus 
ing to do that, even when the superiors are at home : 
he is, in short, the second lieutenant of the company. 
And three things are particularly required of him he 
must be abundant in sympathy, overflowing in love, and 
remarkable for his piety. In spite of the fact that 
abbot and prior are also patterns, the sub-prior is specially 
charged to set before all the example of His Lord. 


We begin to see now why the Cistercians call them 
selves the soldiers of Christ. There is a great deal of 
military system amongst them. Every man has his 
particular post, and special duties attach to it. The 
abbot is captain of the company ; the prior his lieu 
tenant ; the sub-prior the second lieutenant. Now 
come the non-commissioned officers. First of all is the 
cantor. He is appointed by the abbot, advised, of 
course, by his helpers. The cantor must have special 
qualifications, for he has at least three highly important 
things to see to. He must look after the singing, the 
library, and the archives : moreover, he must be an 
expert ecclesiologist. Usually he is a priest, and one 
of proved character. He settles all the church services. 
He has to be particularly careful that they are properly 
performed ; for this reason he spends much time in 


teaching the younger monks all about the traditional 
niceties of pronunciation in singing and reading : nay, 
it is part of his duty to attend the abbot himself on 
occasion, lest the great man should make mistakes. In 
fact, the cantor is about the hardest-worked man in 
the house. Whenever there is a procession and there 
are many processions he has to walk up and down 
between the brethren, seeing that they sing in tune and 
time. He has to train the novices. And he is strictly 
forbidden either to box their ears or pull their hair : 
nobody may do that but their own master. Neverthe 
less, human nature is such that he doubtless occasionally 
yields to sore temptation. As librarian, he has to take 
charge of and preserve all the books ; to lend them out ; 
every Lent he reads out in chapter the names of those 
folk who have presented books to the house ; there is 
a highly commendable rule would it were in use in 
these days, when authors are so little regarded ! that 
the names of the writers should be commemorated as 
worthy of remembrance and gratitude. All the writings 
of the community are in his charge, whether on wax 
tablets or on parchment ; he superintends the scribes, 
gives them material, collects their work. He also keeps 
the roll of the dead, and he is one of the three custodians 
of the common seal. He is to be regular, modest, 
reverent, and in choir to " sing with such sweetness, 
recollection, and devotion that all the brethren, both 
old and young, may find in his behaviour and demeanour 
a living pattern." A very busy man indeed, this, and 
one of whom much is expected ; nevertheless, he gets 
little indulgence, being only allowed to stay out of choir 
for a rest when his services can really be dispensed with. 
And on Saturdays, like everybody else, he must wash 
his feet in the cloister. 


The sacrist, like the cantor, has more than one duty 
to perform. The entire church fabric is in his care 


plate, vestments, reliquaries, everything. Upon him 
is laid, in particular, one primary duty the observance 
of scrupulous cleanliness. He has to wash many things 
himself the altar linen, the corporals, even the floor of 
the choir. When he makes the breads for Holy Com 
munion he and his helpers must be vested in white, and 
must say prayers and psalms during the making. Once 
a week all the sacramental vessels must be thoroughly 
cleansed : he is to do this with his own hands if he is 
a priest ; if he is not a priest, he must get the services 
of one, and see that the task is properly carried out. In 
his charge, too, is the cemetery. There must be no 
weeds ; the edges of the walks must be trim ; the grass 
must be shorn ; no animal must enter. He also has 
care of the bells ; and if the community possesses a 
clock, no hand but his must touch it. He is also the 
light-provider of the house ; all the candles, the wax, 
the tallow, are in his charge ; he has to light up the 
church for the night offices; he provides light for the 
frater. It is also his duty to see that all lights are 
extinguished in church and cloister. One of his minor 
duties is to obtain from the cellarer the salt which is 
blessed each Sunday for the holy water ; when it has 
been blessed, he must place a little of it in every salt 
cellar used in the frater. Under him, his duties being 
so many, he has certain assistants : with two of them 
he always sleeps in the church itself or in some place 
close at hand. 


Abstemious as the Cistercians are, the cellarer is a 
highly important official as being chief of the com 
missariat. He not only has to look to the needs of 
to-day, but to those of to-morrow ; to see that corn is 
stored in the granaries and flour at the mill ; his is the 
duty of buying in for the community ; once a week 
he and the prior meet and consult as to the needs of 
the house. He is much away at fairs and markets, and 


is therefore excused a good deal of attendance in choir ; 
nevertheless, he must not neglect to say his office. He 
superintends the cooks and the serving of the food ; 
he sees to the fuel, he buys in wood, glass, iron ; it is 
in his province to take care about due repairs. Not 
the least onerous of his duties is in going round the 
granges on the abbey lands, giving an eye to the labours 
performed there ; he is a man of flocks and herds. He 
has two principal assistants one keeps an eye on the 
cellar, seeing that the beer is properly barrelled and the 
cellar kept scrupulously clean : this man has many 
serious regulations to keep in mind as to the preservation 
of the ale in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. 
Another is in charge of the bread a highly important 
post in a community in which bread is indeed the staff 
of life ; he sees to the milling of the grain and the baking 
of the loaves. He, too, is constantly going round the 
granges and farms ; it is necessary to see that the stores 
of grain are kept up and properly housed, since a 
shortage of supply would mean more inconvenience than 
can well be conceived. It is his task, too, to see to the 
lodging and entertainment of all folk who visit the house 
on business connected with the agricultural life of the 


The brother who is in charge of the frater is, as it 
were, the head waiter of the establishment. He, too, 
is partly excused from the choir offices, and every morn 
ing he is free to leave the church as soon as the Gospel 
has been sung at High Mass so that he may see that 
everything is in due order in the frater for the dinner 
which immediately follows. His duties are onerous. 
He is provided with a certain yearly sum : out of this 
he furnishes tables, seats, linen, crockery, and appoint 
ments. He must see that the floor is spread with rushes 
or straw ; his is the hand that provides flowers and 
sweet-smelling herbs for the tables ; he must be careful 


about proper ventilation. He sees to the due placing 
of the loaves, each covered by its napkin ; he distributes 
the spoons ; he takes care that the salt is dry and the 
cups set in their proper places. He is strictly enjoined 
to count the spoons and the cups every day, and he 
must be meticulously careful about their cleanliness. 
He is to have hot and cold water and clean towels ready 
for the washing of hands before dinner ; he is also to 
supply candlesticks when light is necessary for meals. 
And while he is to be a man of strong bodily health, he 
is also to be " a true religious . . . loving all the 
brethren without favour." 


But far more important is the kitchener. Abbot and 
prior consult about his appointment ; the appointment 
is announced in chapter. In his individuality, he is to 
be a man of marked piety and virtue : just, patient, 
gentle, kindly, of good words and courteous manners ; 
he must be neither niggardly nor extravagant, but keep 
a happy mean in all that pertains to his office. It is 
an onerous one. He has to estimate what food he will 
require during the week ; to see that it is provided : 
to keep an account of it ; he must render his accounts 
to the higher authorities once a week. He is responsible 
for all that goes on in the kitchen, even for crockery 
broken by the cooks : if the platters are not clean, the 
blame falls on him. In two particulars he must be very 
careful one, to take care that the brethren are never 
kept waiting for dinner ; the other, that the food prepared 
for those in the infirmary is such as sick men require. 
There are many rules laid down for him. He is to take 
care never to leave his keys lying about, and he is not 
to have too much faith in the cooks and those under 
him, but to keep a sharp eye on their doings. Being a 
very busy man he, too, is excused from choir at times, 
and, if he is a priest, he may say Mass while his brethren 
are saying the office. His first duty of the day is to 


visit the sick brothers, not merely to ask after their 
appetites, but to give them a little cheer. And he is 
to be a man of piety, remembering the Lord Who said, 
" He who ministers to Me, let him follow Me." 


Grave and meritorious, if well performed, is the work 
of the infirmarer. He must be gentle and of a good 
temper ; compassionate, kindly of heart, ever willing 
to show sympathy to those in his charge. As soon as 
one of the brethren falls sick, he must lead him to the 
infirmary and presently carry thither the sick man s 
bed, his plate, his spoon, and his cup, subsequently 
informing the kitchener of the removal, so that the 
patient s food may be provided. If he is a priest, he 
says Mass for his patients every morning ; if he is not, 
he must get a priest to do so. If the sick are able, he 
says the office with them in the infirmary ; he can 
borrow books for their use from the library, but he must 
be sure to return them every night before the book 
cases are locked up. He always sleeps in the infirmary 
whether he has patients in charge or not, for sickness 
may come at any moment. He is to see that every 
thing is scrupulously clean, to keep his floors covered 
with fresh straw, and to have in his cupboard a stock 
of medicines, especially ginger and cinnamon, both in 
great repute. And it is within his province to super 
intend that curious practice of blood-letting, regarded 
as so necessary at this age. Four times a year, amongst 
the Cistercians namely, at or about Christmas, in 
February, in April, and in September the brethren, in 
parties of four or six, are relieved of a certain amount 
of blood. The infirmarer has a fire lighted for these 
patients : for them, when the blood-letting has been 
performed, by opening a vein in the arm, and they have 
been duly bandaged, discipline is somewhat relaxed, so 
much so, indeed, that the occasion is regarded as quite 
a holiday. The patients are free of choir duty and of 


all work : they have nothing to do but to rest and 
read ; more food is allowed ; a certain indulgence is 
granted in conversation. Nevertheless, if the patient 
feels well enough, he may go into choir, but instead of 
standing he is to sit, and he is to go out before the rest, 
lest his bandages should be disturbed by any one pushing 
against him. 


Like many of the other officers of the house, the 
almoner finds himself charged with more duties than 
one. He is not necessarily in priest s orders, though it 
is better that he should be, so that with his administra 
tion of charity he may mingle spiritual counsel and 
admonition. But his primary duty is to give with 
proper care, discretion, and discrimination. If he is to 
live up to the Rule, he must possess a heart burning with 
charity and a boundless pity : the orphan must learn 
to regard him as a very father ; the needy as a sure 
helper ; he must have words of comfort for the sick, 
of support for the helpless. Where people have come 
down in the world, he is to respect their delicacy of 
feeling, and give their relief to them in private. He is 
to be kind to all in his administration : not even the 
persistent mendicant, however importunate he may be, 
is to ruffle his temper, for even he comes in the name of 
Christ. It is not merely money that he distributes. All 
the old clothes of the community fall into his hands : 
he is to do what he can with them, so that they may 
be repaired and furbished up for the use of the poor : 
he is to provide plenty of warm hose to give away in 
winter. Also to his charge fall all the remnants of food, 
which, duly collected after every meal, are subsequently 
distributed to the poor. But he has still more duties. 
He it is who receives the notices of deaths from other 
houses and entertains those who bring them ; it is his 
province, too, to send out similar notices from his own 
house. He has a duty towards those of his community 


who are becoming infirm ; when the great Rogation 
processions take place he must furnish walking-sticks 
of boxwood to the aged. And he is concerned with 
sticks in another and a different fashion : he has certain 
youthful members in his charge in the almonry, and if 
they do not attend to their books and pens, he is to 
lay his stick freely upon their shoulders, remembering 
that whoso spares the rod spoils the child. 


From the days in which St. Benedict framed his 
famous Regula, there had always been an ideal set up 
before the holder of every office in a monastic com 
munity. Very often as men are, after all, but human 
it was difficult to live up to the ideal : nevertheless, it 
was set up. Just as the almoner was bidden to remember 
that Our Lord came to him in the person of every 
beggar, so the master of novices is required to be an 
expert in the winning of souls. Amongst all the officers 
of the house he perhaps has the most delicate task to 
discharge : it is his province to seek for the signs of 
true calling to the monastic life. The rules for the 
admission and training of the novice are strict. As a 
postulant, seeking entry into the community, he first 
enters the guest-house, wherein he remains several days, 
duly observed. Admitted to chapter, he makes three 
formal requests to be admitted as a novice : if his 
request is granted he is /at once handed over to the 
master of novices, clothed in the monk s habit, and 
immediately instructed in certain rules, manners, and 
customs. This stage is much like that in which a 
recruit finds himself on enlistment into the army. He 
and his fellows are separated from the rest of the com 
munity ; one side of the cloister is specially assigned 
to them ; there they learn, read, and study, always 
under the eye of the master. Three times during his 
year of probation, the novice renews his formal request 
in chapter : at the end, after a final and more solemn 


petition from him, the report of the novice-master is 
considered, and if it be a favourable one, the candidate 
is solemnly professed, and receives the kiss of fraternity 
from the entire community. And what he will be in 
the future depends much on the lessons and examples 
set him by the master in whose charge he has been 
during his recruit stage, for as the twig is bent so will 
the tree incline. 


Though his work is not of a spiritual nature, the 
vestiarius, or chamberlain, is a highly important officer. 
It is his province to superintend all that pertains to the 
clothing, the laundry, and the repairing ; he has also 
to see to shaving, washing, and the provision of boots. 
He has to provide the brethren with tunics, scapulars, 
hoods, boots, socks, drawers, and shirts ; to see that 
the underclothing is regularly washed, and that no 
article is lost in the wash ; to be careful about mending ; 
to hand over cast-off garments to the almoner. He has 
to buy cloth from the merchants ; sometimes they bring 
their goods to him at the abbey ; sometimes he goes 
to the fairs whereat cloth-merchants congregate : it is 
his duty, too, to buy needles, thread, wax, scissors, and 
to superintend the work of the monastic tailors. He is 
responsible, also, for the linen and towels required in 
the lavatory and for the baths. And ascetic as the 
Cistercians are, the bathing is to be done in some degree 
of comfort : there must be a plenitude of hot water 
and warm, dry towels ; moreover, there must be pro 
vided sweet hay, to be strewn round the tubs for the 
bathers to step out upon when they emerge. The 
vestiarius also makes the arrangements for the periodic 
shavings : the Liber Usuum only mentions seven shaving 
days, but there seem to have been special shavings on 
the eves of the greater festivals, when it was seemly 
that the coronas or tonsures should be in due order. 



Finally, as regards the principal officers of the house, 
we come to the guest-master, who, by the time the 
Order has become permanently settled, is a personage 
of very considerable importance. From the thirteenth 
century onward, the abbey is the general inn of the 
wayfarers, from the noble with his retinue to the pilgrim 
with his badge and staff. Its use as a house of call 
varies according to its location : Rievaulx, for instance, 
set amidst its wild solitude, is not so likely to have such 
demands made upon it as are made on Meaux, which 
is but two miles from a much-used high road. Neverthe 
less, all the houses receive many guests, of all classes, 
in the course of a year, and the guest-master is a busy 
man, quite as busy as the landlord of a roadside inn in 
the old coaching days : so far as one can make out 
from the ancient documents, guests, in greater or smaller 
numbers, were always being entertained. Accordingly, 
he must be a man who always has his wits about him, 
who is gifted with tact, discretion, and politeness, who 
is neither garrulous nor taciturn, but knows how to 
converse readily and wisely with those whom he enter 
tains. He is to make sure that the guest-house is 
always ready for the reception of visitors ; that lights, 
fire, warm water, clean linen, rushes for the floors, and 
writing materials are provided, and that the cellarer is 
notified as to food. He is to receive guests as he would 
receive Our Lord, assuring them of welcome, putting 
them at their ease, personally assuring himself that 
everything is done for their comfort. He is also to 
explain the rules of the house, to arrange for the attend 
ance at church if the guest so desires, and if the guest 
be a person of consequence, to acquaint the abbot with 
his presence. He is to speed his parting as he is to 
welcome his coming, taking care that nothing is left 
behind in the guest-chambers, and that the God-speed 
of the brotherhood goes with the visitor. 


22. GUESTS. 

It must be very evident that the importance of the 
medieval house of religion as a place of rest and refresh 
ment was far greater than we of this age can well 
conceive. Before we can arrive at even a faint idea of 
that importance we must get some notion of two matters 
the state of the roads and the condition of society. 
Good as the roads had been in England during the time 
of the Roman occupation, they were suffered to fall into 
a wretched state after the Romans had gone, and they 
continued to deteriorate until, by the thirteenth century, 
they had become the worst in Europe. Moreover, they 
were frequented by robbers : a curious law of 1285 
enacted that all wood, whether of bush or tree, should 
be cut down for two hundred feet on either side of all 
highways to prevent the lurking therein of thieves, 
footpads, and the like. Consequently those who were 
obliged to travel and we may take it that very few 
people travelled for mere pleasure banded themselves, 
if possible, into companies for safety and mutual protec 
tion. The great folk, of course, travelled with bands of 
armed retainers ; the lesser, we may be sure, took care 
to have arms with them, unless, indeed, they were of 
so little consequence in the way of possessing money and 
goods that robbers would turn from them with contempt. 
But the throng that drew up to a religious house for 
hospitality as night came on would be no inconsiderable 
one, made up of all sorts and conditions, and no one 
was turned away. Therefore the guest-house and the 
guest-master were highly important factors in the 
monastic life as it touched outside matters, for it was 
not until much nearer the end of the Middle Age that 
inns were found outside the towns, and the coming and 
going of guests was certainly a daily feature of life in 
any religious house. 



It naturally followed from this that the monasteries 
became great centres for the distribution of news. There 
were, of course, no newspapers, no newsletters centuries 
were to elapse before either were known in England. 
Letters were carried between sender and recipient, it is 
true, but we do not know exactly how : there are no 
records of any organized or public carrying before the 
sixteenth century ; we know, as regards the monastic 
Orders, that letters were conveyed from one house to 
another by Cremators lay-brothers told off for the 
purpose. But the general news of the country was 
conveyed by word of mouth, and here the religious 
houses, entertaining guests constantly, as they did, 
formed important centres for its distribution. Even in 
those of the strictest rule, like the Cistercian houses, 
news spread and was redistributed. The man of rank, 
pausing with his retinue at the abbey for the night, 
was entertained by the abbot ; he brought the news of 
the court, of foreign affairs, of Parliament ; he doubtless 
added the current gossip of high society. The merchant 
from the town gave the guest-master all the latest news 
of trade, of local happenings, of plagues, battles, nine- 
days wonders. The poorer sort entertained the porter 
with scraps from their particular budget ; one way or 
another, if the countryside wanted news about the great, 
mysterious world outside the parish boundaries it got 
it at the abbey gates. So, in a later period, country 
folk got the news of Trafalgar and of Waterloo, not so 
much from newspapers as from talk at the inn-door 
while the fresh relay of horses was being put to the 
York or Bristol coach. 


We may deduce from this that the obligation of 
silence, so strictly insisted upon in the first days of the 
Order, had become somewhat perhaps considerably 


relaxed by the time the English settlement was fully 
effected. Similar obligations, laid down under the rule 
of Stephen Harding and of Bernard of Clairvaux, were 
certainly falling into disuse before the Yorkshire houses 
had been in existence fifty years. But in the beginnings 
the Order was ringed about much too abundantly with 
rules and regulations which lacked elasticity ; being too 
rigid they were ruthlessly snapped, and never mended 
again. A brief consideration of the statutes reveals the 
existence of many curious customs. Abbots and monks 
of the Cistercian Order were not permitted to administer 
the sacrament of baptism : hence there were (originally, 
at any rate, for relaxation of the rule in favour of abbots 
appears to have been made before the fourteenth century) 
no fonts in the Cistercian churches. The brethren were 
forbidden to keep dogs, bears, apes, or any animals 
exciting levity ; this rule, too, fell into disuse later on, 
for many of the Yorkshire houses possessed sporting 
dogs. Lazy conversi were condemned to eat coarse 
bread : on occasion disobedient monks might be put 
in chains. The conversi were not allowed to wash each 
other s heads : neither conversi nor monacal were per 
mitted to drink after compline. No dyed garments were 
allowed : the real reason of the adoption of the white 
habit was not because of the vision of Alberic, referred 
to in Newman s life of Harding, but because dyed wool 
was considered an unnecessary superfluity. Gloves were 
forbidden to be worn, save in certain excepted cases. 
It was forbidden to keep hawks ; this, again, was a 
statute which fell into neglect. There were penalties for 
losing one s verse in the office ; the loss of three verses 
(or absence during three verses) was regarded as an 
offence of great seriousness. Communities were not 
allowed to keep peacocks the reason for this seems on 
the surface : the peacock is a bird of gay and worldly 
aspect, full of pride ; moreover, he has a loud and 
shrill note. Neither were players, actors, mountebanks, 
strollers to be let in ; this rule, too, was not kept in 


later days. There are many regulations as to horses, 
saddles, bridles, and stirrups : the horse was evidently 
not ranked with either peacock or ape as a forbidden 
thing. One notable regulation shows that it was 
regarded quite possible that members might be so wicked 
and misguided as to practise sortilege : there is provision 
for the punishment of such offenders, with threats of 
bread and water, and worse. Fowler, in his notes to 
the Statutes, mentions an example of punishment for 
sortilege (the offence was one common enough nowadays 
crystal-gazing) recorded in Archbishop George Neville s 
York Register (folio 69) : one William Byg, alias Lech, 
of Wombwell, being sentenced to do penance by wearing 
a paper scroll about his head inscribed Ecce sortilegus, 
and on his breast and back other papers inscribed 
Invocatur Spirituum and Sortilegus. It may have been 
some naughtily inclined monk or lay-brother of this 
disposition for there was a sad tendency to study and 
practise magic in those days who got himself incarce 
rated in one of the three cells at Fountains, and on the 
plastered wall scratched the words Vale Libertas. 


Reckoning the due settlement of the Cistercians in 
their eight Yorkshire houses to have been effected by 
the beginning of the thirteenth century one may safely 
believe that by fifty years later they were exerting a 
considerable influence on the population around them. 
That population was gradually increasing. The land, 
laid waste by William the Conqueror in 1070, had once 
more been brought under cultivation. The market- 
towns, small as they were in comparison to what they 
were to become, were growing in importance. Scarcely 
one of the eight abbeys stood so far away from men in 
1250 as they had all stood a hundred years before. 
Ripon had grown as Fountains had grown ; Leeds was 
being transformed on the very edge of the grounds of 
Kirkstall ; Jervaulx was next door to Middleham and 


Ley-burn and Masham ; Meaux was close to Beverley 
from the beginning ; within a few miles of Roche lay 
Doncaster in one direction, Tickhill in another, Sheffield 
in a third, Rotherham in a fourth ; Helmsley and its 
castle lay between Byland and Rievaulx ; Salley, 
perhaps the most isolated of the eight, was still not so 
far away from Skipton, growing into the capital of 
Craven under the walls of the Romille stronghold. The 
castle of the feudal baron was now everywhere in close 
proximity to the cloister of the medieval monk : the 
smaller folk were much more inclined to turn to monk 
than to baron. There can be little doubt that during 
the first hundred and fifty years of their history in 
Yorkshire the Cistercians were highly popular amongst 
the people. There were many reasons for their popu 
larity. Their piety was as yet unspoiled by accretions 
of wealth. They were still comparatively poor. There 
was no slackness in their religious life the Rule was 
kept. They set examples in religion, also they set 
example in a matter closely affecting the well-being of 
the folk around them, for they were pioneers of good 
farming, and toiled hard and well on their own land 
When they began as they soon did to let that land 
to tenants, they proved themselves exceedingly good 
landlords, teaching new methods, introducing new 
products, finding seed, supervising and instructing on 
all sides. The monk was always a better landlord than 
the baron, for the baron was constantly absent ; the 
monk was rarely from home. Moreover, as Thorold 
Rogers has pointed out, he was the advocate of genuine 
dealing towards the peasantry ; the poor man of that 
day turned with trust to the Churchman where he 
shrank from the soldier and the lawyer. Here then 
were two good reasons for the welcome given to the 
Cistercians they were conscientious in discharging their 
own special duties, benevolent in their dealings with 
others. But there were more reasons for their popu 
larity. As villages and hamlets grew up in the neigh- 


bourhood of the abbeys, their folk came under the care 
of the community food, clothing, even money, scarce 
as it was, was distributed with no niggardly hand : 
such medical skill as the brotherhood possessed was 
given freely to the sick. As guest-house for the traveller, 
the abbey filled a want which nothing else could have 
supplied at that time : one is not sure from what one 
can gather from medieval chronicles that even the per 
son of distinction would have been welcomed at the 
baron s drawbridge, but he was sure of courtesy at the 
monk s wicket-gate. And so long as the Cistercians 
retained their early simplicity, observed their Rule, 
eschewed riches, worked their land, gave alms to the 
poor, relief to the sick, hospitality to the wayfarer, so 
long could no man find occasion to point the finger of 
suspicion in their direction. Once more it must be 
repeated that the Golden Age of the followers of Stephen 
Harding and Bernard of Clairvaux in England lay in 
those first years, when prayer and labour, asceticism and 
charity, went hand in hand ; those years in which the 
Order had sufficiency and not superfluity ; competence, 
but not wealth. 




BEFORE entering on a consideration of the means by 
which, vast possessions in the form of land, houses, and 
money came into the hands of the Cistercians, it will 
be well to arrive at some conclusion as to the original 
ideas of the men who founded the Order. So far as we 
can gather, those of Stephen Harding were of a purely 
religious nature, going little beyond the reform of those 
laxities and abuses which had crept into the observance 
of the Rule of St. Benedict. But when we come to 
Bernard of Clairvaux we perceive a different or, rather, 
an additional object. Bernard was statesman as well 
as saint ; pioneer in worldly matters as well as prophet 
in religious. In Bernard s purpose, Clairvaux was not 
only to be a home of true religion, but an example in 
the world of labour. Its monks were not only to show 
men how to increase in spirituality, but to point to 
methods of industry and settled order which, as his 
wisdom told him, would tend to a mighty improvement 
in civilization. Clairvaux, without doubt, became a 
great humanizing influence. " Civilization," says Mr. 
Frederic Harrison, " moral and material, radiated from 
it through that dark tract as from a centre of light and 
warmth." " I no more doubt," remarks the late Canon 
Atkinson, quoting this sentence in his Introduction to 
the Rievaulx Chartularies, " that the monks of Clair 
vaux, invited by Walter Espec to found and build up 
the House of Rievalles, and directed by the saintly 



Bernard, were so invited and directed with these self 
same ends and objects and purposes in view as Bernard s 
own at Clairvaux, than I doubt the existence of the 
wonderful proof of their energy, wisdom, systematized 
purpose, and performance which appeals to our higher 
and better judgment in the stately ruin of their great 
work, varied, as it was, in the fulfilment of one part 
only of their magnificent intention and aim." Therefore, 
in taking the first benefactions of land and money 
offered to them on settlement in new quarters the early 
Cistercians had a worthy object how worthily it was 
carried out is shown by Mrs. Green, one of the most 
thoroughly reliable of modern historians, in the following 
extract from her Henry the Second : " In half a century 
sixty-four religious houses were built in Yorkshire and 
Lincolnshire alone. Monastery and priory . . . towered 
above the wretched mud-hovels in which the whole of 
the population below the class of barons crowded. . . . 
We may gain some faint idea of the amazing stir and 
industry which the founding of these monasteries 
implied, by following in our modern farms and pasture- 
lands the traces which may even now be seen of the 
toil of these great preachers of labour. The whole 
water-supply of a countryside for miles round was 
gathered up by vast drainage-works ; stagnant pools 
were transformed into running waters closed in by 
embankments, which still serve as ditches to the modern 
farmer ; swamps were reclaimed that are only now 
preserved for cultivation by maintaining the dikes and 
channels first cut by medieval monks ; mills rose on 
the banks of the newly created streams ; roads were 
made by which the corn of the surrounding villages 
might be carried to the central mill, and the produce of 
the land brought to the central storehouse. The new 
settlers showed a measureless cunning and industry in 
reclaiming soil hitherto worthless." Here, surely, is a 
proof that Bernard s idea was that his followers should 
not only be reformers in religion, but pioneers in industry 


and civilization : every Cistercian house was to be, in 
its neighbourhood, a centre from whence example, 
spiritual and material, should flow. 


But was it ever his intention that a Cistercian house 
should add land to land, house to house, wood to wood, 
until, as in the case of Fountains, an abbot could ride 
thirty miles without setting his horse s hoofs off the 
communal property ? If we can gather an accurate 
idea of Bernard from the available material, the answer 
to that question is surely in the negative. Now it is 
undeniable that the Cistercians, once settled in York 
shire, accumulated property at an amazingly rapid rate, 
and in equally amazing quantity. If Richard and his 
monks fled St. Mary s at York with nothing but their 
habits, they possessed a great deal within a very short 
time. If the community at Barnoldswick carried little 
to Kirkstall, it had not been long established there 
before numerous valuable properties in the neighbour 
hood had fallen into its hands. So it befell in the cases 
of all the other six houses of the Order in Yorkshire. 
Whereas the original idea of Stephen Harding and of 
Bernard of Clairvaux, seems to have been that a brother 
hood should possess sufficient property to maintain it 
in accordance with its simple requirements, their succes 
sors of the next generation eagerly grasped at all that 
was offered, began to scheme for more, and commenced 
that long series of legal processes which was ultimately 
to contribute to the downfall of the Order. The wealth 
of the Cistercians began to flow in upon them almost at 
once. The original grants of lands were liberally sup 
plemented by other grants ; rich men made offerings ; 
the guest, hospitably treated, rendered a return ; 
bequests were made ; the corrody system was intro 
duced, by which, in return for an annuity, an often 
very considerable sum of money was paid into the 
communal treasury ; the popularity of the Order 


inclined men to give to it, here a little, there a great 
deal. While this wealth flowed in, all went well to 
outward appearance. Church and cloister were built, 
not always in accordance with the plain and simple 
ideas of the early days ; the machinery moved on well- 
oiled springs. But even then the harm was being done, 
for the communities were being set up on a scale of 
grandeur and magnificence which necessitated the con 
tinual addition of wealth, until an abbot s first duty 
became not so much a spiritual as an essentially worldly 
one. The abbey had been transformed from a religious 
retreat into a gigantic business establishment : where 
the first Abbot of Fountains looked out from beneath 
his elm-tree shelter on a wilderness, his successors 
of two hundred years later looked on moor and pasture 
crowded with sheep and cattle, on upland and lowland 
rich in grain, on lead-mine and stone-quarry, on game- 
preserve and fishery : his domain extended from the 
escarpments of Pen-y-gent to the heart of the county. 
Not for this, one feels, did Prior Richard boldly face 
Abbot Godfrey at York and denounce those who added 
acre to acre and roof to roof, " going to law one with 
another." Whatever he and his first little band felt 
content with, the " modest culture of the ground and 
the use of cattle " did not satisfy his successors, the 
mere list of whose possessions came in time to fill many 
a crowded sheet of the chartularies. 


It is to the chartularies of the various houses that 
we must turn if we wish to gain some idea, more or less 
accurate, of the wealth especially in landed property 
which within so comparatively short a time passed into 
the hands of the Cistercians in Yorkshire. From them, 
and from the household books, and from such statements 
of account as have been preserved, we get some notion 
of those financial arrangements which must have neces 
sitated much expenditure of time and care on the part 


of every abbot and his principal officers. But there are 
other sources of information as to monastic possessions 
which throw significant sidelights on the history of the 
communities the rolls or records of the various courts 
of law, such as the Curia Regis Rolls, the Coram Rege 
Rolls, and the De Banco Rolls. In these, monastic 
property is constantly the cause of action : one learns 
from them that the monks were almost ceaselessly 
engaged in litigation ; sometimes as complainants, some 
times as defendants : there are still other instances in 
the Yorkshire Assize Rolls, and in the Conventual Leases 
of Yorkshire Monasteries. More information still can 
be gained from the Feet of Fines of various reigns. 
Altogether, the details and particulars are multitudinous ; 
one can do no more in an elementary outline of the 
whole subject than give an epitome of the monastic 
possessions referred to in these ancient documents. 


From the Chartulary of Rievaulx, edited by the late 
Canon Atkinson for the Surtees Society, by whom it 
was printed in 1887, we learn that the original grant of 
Walter Espec to the colony of settlers from Clairvaux 
was a very small one four carucates of land at Grif 
and five at Tilston. In those first days, " apart from 
any active sympathy and co-operation they may have 
met with on the part of the founder," says Canon 
Atkinson, " they seem to have been thrown very much 
on their own resources, so far as help or countenance 
from any other external quarter is involved." It was 
not until some years later that a neighbour, Odo de 
Boltby, gave them a grant of land at Heskett not a 
very productive gift, for the value, four hundred years 
later, was only .4 i^s. 4^. a year. It was not till some 
years after this that Walter Espec added his additional 
grant of Bilsdale, nor was that at first a great addition 
to their resources, though it eventually became so. But 
from the time of Walter Espec s charter lands began to 


be given in increased quantity yet it could not have 
been out of any income derived from these lands that 
Rievaulx, the earliest portion of which certainly dates 
back to 1145, the year of the Bilsdale grant and of some 
other benefactions, was built. Canon Atkinson was 
inclined to believe that Walter Espec helped more 
towards the building of Rievaulx than has ever been 
credited to him. " Who can tell," he asks, " where the 
means came from, or how it was that such a mighty 
zeal, as is attested by the great block of work, which 
we see for ourselves, was actually carried out, was 
inspired ? Who were the helpers, and in what form or 
forms was the help given ? . . . I cannot but feel con 
vinced . . . that the Founder [Espec] now became 
a founder indeed. . . . Considering the extent of work 
that was completed at the early period we are con 
templating, and the character of the same, it seems 
utterly impossible, allowing for the slenderness of the 
as yet existing means of the convent, to account for 
the fact that it was effected, on any other ground save 
some such as that now suggested. The effort, and the 
results alike, were so obviously beyond the means and 
the unassisted power of the convent, and the assistant 
must have been one alike munificent and abounding in 
wealth." That Walter Espec was abounding in wealth 
is well established ; that he was munificent, we know : 
it seems certain, therefore, that his grants of land to 
Rievaulx were supplemented handsomely by other gifts 
of money and material, in the hope that before his time 
came his eyes might look on " an house exceedingly 
magnifical unto the Lord." 


For a time matters went smoothly with Rievaulx, but 
at some period between the death of Walter Espec and 
the final completion of the abbey, the community 
experienced sore trouble in being forcibly deprived of 
much of what had been given. Between 1145 and 1160 


many grants had been made, notably by Odo de Ness, 
Gilbert de Gant, Bishop William of Durham, and Bishop 
Hugh of Durham. In 1154 came tne valuable grant of 
Roger de Mowbray, conferring eight carucates of land 
at Welburn and four at Houston. Upon this followed 
a succession of gifts from families of note, such as those 
of Lascelles, Bulmer, Malbis, Tunstal, Engelram, Fitz- 
Ivo, Cumin, and Alverstain. Other donors about this 
time, or somewhat earlier, were Robert and William 
de Stuteville, and Everard de Ros, Walter Espec s 
nephew. Now certain of these men, and notably the 
Stutevilles and Mowbrays, are charged, in a Rescript of 
Pope Alexander III, addressed to the Bishop of Exeter, 
the Abbot of St. Mary s at York, and the Dean of York, 
with having plundered the Rievaulx community of the 
lands they had already given to it, and of other land given 
by their predecessors. The usual pains and penalties 
excommunication, interdict, deprivation of Christian 
burial are threatened, and that they were efficacious 
is made evident by the fact that the lands specified were 
afterwards in possession of Rievaulx, and remained so 
to the time of its suppression. 


But this trouble over, the grants of land to Rievaulx 
continued in ever-increasing quantity : it is impossible 
to specify them here in entirety. The various charters, 
deeds, confirmations, quit-claims, printed by Canon 
Atkinson run into the hundreds the mere enumeration 
of names of people and places is formidable in itself. 
In one extract from a chartulary of Rievaulx preserved 
among the Cotton MSS., beginning " Istae sunt pos- 
sessiones Rievallenses perennes quse sic collatse sunt 
nobis," there are forty entries of grants from the year 
in which Walter Espec gave Grif and Tilston to that 
wherein "Willelmus de Etun dedit nobis ix acras prati 
et unam perticatam in Torp juxta Eboracum." In the 
" Carta Henrici Regis Senioris de omnibus possessionibus 


et libertatibus Rywallencibus " there are one hundred 
and eighty-one entries relating to the monastic property. 
In the Patent Rolls (6 Edward III, pt. 2, m. 23) there is 
a document which is of extraordinary interest to any 
one attempting to get an idea of what lands and pos 
sessions had accrued to Rievaulx up to the year 1332. 
In this, a confirmation by Edward III of all grants and 
concessions by various benefactors to the convent, are 
set forth the names and particulars of the various vills, 
tofts, thorpes, woods, lands, messuages, and other 
properties then held. In the Surtees reprint this docu 
ment is compressed by the omission of all the mere 
formal phrases of customary use, the omissions being 
indicated by dotted spaces ; even then it occupies thirty 
closely packed and printed pages. In the same reprint 
Canon Atkinson included the " Ministers Accounts " 
(30-31 Henry VIII, No. 162) so that they might be 
collated with the document just referred to ; they fill 
twenty-four similarly printed pages. There is practically 
little difference between the volume of property of Rie 
vaulx in 1332 and that of 1538 a proof that the chief 
period of benefactions to the religious houses may be 
fixed as having existed between the middle of the twelfth 
and the beginning of the fourteenth century. 


Where was situate most of the great mass of landed 
property which had come into the possession of Rie 
vaulx ? Canon Atkinson, in a note to Walter Espec s 
foundation charter, points out the impossibility of 
precise identification of any but a limited portion of the 
places named in the verbal delineation of the boundaries 
referred to therein, and the same remark applies, in 
degree, to most of the subsequent charters, documents, 
and lists. The Grif of the first charter was a farm in 
the neighbourhood of Helmsley : the Tilston is identified 
by Canon Atkinson with the present Stiltons. The 
spelling of place-names in these early records is some- 


times extremely puzzling : nevertheless, it is possible 
to get an idea of where a good deal of the monastic 
land lay, though certain names referred to seem to have 
been long lost to use. The " Ministers Accounts " 
perhaps afford the best means of identifying the various 
locations with present-day places : in the entries there 
contained one recognizes many names in the neighbour 
hood of Rievaulx and Helmsley Newton, Oswaldkirk, 
Bilsdale, Scawton, Welburn, and the like. But some of 
the possessions referred to were far off Keld, Angram, 
Middleton-in-Teesdale, in the north-west corner of the 
county ; Redcar, Scarborough, and Thornaby, on the 
east coast. Many names of old Yorkshire families occur 
in these entries de Lacy, de Busli, de Bulmer, de Brus, 
Mallaby, de Ros, de Vescy ; the names of eminent 
Churchmen like Archbishop Thurstan, Archbishop Roger, 
and various Bishops of Durham, are frequent. The 
items of the " Ministers Accounts " show how the dif 
ferent holdings varied in value. The original grant of 
Walter Espec, called in these accounts " Gryffe Graunge " 
and its appurtenances was then 1538 reckoned as 
being worth 10 us. lod. ; a grange at Murton-cum- 
East Harlersay is set down at 13 us. 6d. ; a tenement 
at Thornton produces 3.5-. ; four bovates of land, one 
toft, three crofts, and one cottage at Stittenham are 
worth 1 IO.T. %d. ; various properties at Welburn bring 
in 39 iSs. And at the end of some of the items are 
appended the significant words summa nulla. 


Having its beginnings in absolute poverty, Fountains 
became the richest of all the Cistercian abbeys of York 
shire. Its first wealth came to it with the arrival of 
the two clerics, Hugh, Dean of York, and Serlo, Canon 
of York, who, soon after the famine which nearly brought 
the new foundation to an end, joined the community, 
and devoted all their many goods, books, furniture, 
money, to its use. In the account written by Hugo, 


the monk of Kirkstall, who derived his information 
from Serlo, the story is told of how the next benefactions 
came to Fountains. " A certain knight of that neigh 
bourhood, Robert de Sartis, took to himself to wife a 
certain woman named Raganilda, and with her certain 
lands which fell to her by right of inheritance. These 
two were both inspired by the counsel of God, and, by a 
solemn gift in accordance with the wish and grant of 
both, made over to Fountains the village which was 
called Herleshow, with the adjacent land and the forest 
called Warsall. They were buried at Fountains in the 
sepulchre of the just, and their memory is held blessed 
among us." Then a young man named Serlo de Pem 
broke, who had been of the King s household, fell ill, 
and sending for the Abbot of Fountains, made over to 
him the village of Cayton, three miles to the south of 
the abbey. He died at Fountains, and " had his 
sepulchre among the saints." Soon after that the abbot 
acquired Aldburgh, near Masham, and, says the chroni 
cler, " from that day and henceforth God blessed our 
valleys with the blessings of heaven above and blessings 
of the deep that lieth under. He multiplied the number 
of the brethren and added to their possessions, spread 
ing out His vine . . . till in a little while it became a 
great vine." 


The chronicle of Hugo tells much of the early fortunes 
of Fountains, and of its gradual progress towards pros 
perity and wealth, not without certain periods of tribula 
tion intervening. He tells of the founding of Newminster, 
of Kirkstead, and of Louth ; of the letters written by 
Bernard of Clairvaux to cheer and strengthen the 
brethren ; of the rule of Abbot Henry Murdac (subse 
quently Archbishop of York, 114753), one of a wealthy 
Yorkshire family, who, originally one of Bernard s own 
disciples, had been chosen by him to be first Abbot of 
Vauclair, and of how in his days the monastery grew 


within and without, and had the three granges of Cowton, 
Kilnsey, and Marton added to it. He goes on to tell 
of the founding of more daughter-houses, Woburn in 
Bedfordshire, Lysa in Norway, Kirkstall in Airedale, 
Vaudry in Lincolnshire, Meaux in Holderness. Then 
he conies to a sad episode in the history of Fountains 
the dissension of Churchmen in the archdiocese of York, 
one faction forming under Archbishop William, another 
under Abbot Henry ; and this led to the burning of the 
cloister erected with such pains, and to the partial 
destruction of the church. But the abbot and brethren 
were spared, and " they repaired the fallen places, rebuilt 
the ruins, and, as it is written, the walls fell down, but 
with hewn stones it was built again. They were helped 
by the faithful of the neighbourhood : a new building 
rose up, far more gorgeous than its predecessor." But 
there was a worse matter than this to follow. During 
the time of Abbot Richard III, a mutiny broke out 
amongst the brethren and caused great scandal : " the 
sons rose against their father, sheep against their 
shepherd " ; the abbot had to retire for a time. But 
the presumptuous ones suddenly repented of their sin, 
and being severely chastised, were forgiven and restored : 
after which, says the chronicler, " no such thing was 
ventured on at Fountains," which continued, under the 
rule of succeeding abbots, to move forward to prosperity. 


Yet, in the early days, the rise to affluence must have 
been a slow one we know, indeed, that it was. " Foun 
tains," remarks Mr. J. E. Morris, " can point to no single 
great lay-founder, as Kirkstall points to de Lacy, as 
Rievaulx and Kirkham point to Espec, as Bolton points 
to William and Cecilia de Meschines. This house that 
was destined to attain to such magnificence grew slowly 
from beginnings obscure and almost wretched." But 
if the growth was slow, it was remarkably sure. " The 
various acquisitions of property by the monks . . . 


during the long period of the abbey s existence," writes 
Mr. W. T. Lancaster in his Abstracts of the Cbartulary 
of Fountains, " were very large. By far the greater 
part of them were in the county of York, but the monks 
had also an estate of some magnitude in Cumberland, 
and possessions in one or two other counties. In York 
shire their estates were very great. In Craven alone, 
Dr. Whitaker estimates that this property that part 
contained within a ring-fence, and exclusive of many out 
lying lands must have covered, upon a very moderate 
computation, a hundred square miles, and if we view 
in connexion with this great holding their extensive 
properties between the Yore and the Nidd it may 
almost be said that their lands extended from Ripon 
to the Ribble. In the neighbourhood of the abbey they 
acquired the whole of Aldfield, and lands more or less 
extensive in Sawley, Markington, Laverton, Grantley, 
Wicksley, and, indeed, in almost every vill in the vicinity 
immediately west of the Yore. A great estate was given 
by the Mowbrays and others in Dacre, Brimham, and 
other places in Nidderdale. In the Thirsk and North- 
allerton districts the monks owned about half of Dish- 
forth and Rainton, nearly the whole of Melmerby and 
Baldersley, and much land at Cowton, Busby, Ainderby, 
Pickhill, and Kirkby Wiske, and farther north they had 
property at or near Stokesley and Yarm, and in Cleve 
land. In the York district, they had, besides a good 
estate in the city, all Wheldrake and extensive lands in 
Marston, Acaster, Moor Monkton, Whixley, and other 
vills. The Leathley family, those lavish supporters of 
religious houses, gave all Stainburn and about half of 
Rigton, in Wharf edale. In the south-west of the county 
the abbey owned much land in Elland, Bradley, and 
Kirkheaton. And besides their larger properties, roughly 
indicated in the above brief summary, the monks had 
very numerous possessions in other places. So early as 
the time of Richard I, the confirmation granted by that 
King to the house enumerated about two hundred places 


where it possessed lands. The result of all these acquisi 
tions was that at the Dissolution the abbey possessed 
a clear income of something like .1000 a year an 
amount, it need hardly be said, equal to a far larger 
sum of our modern money." 


The history of the Chartulary of Fountains, as recorded 
by Mr. Lancaster in his Abstracts, is of such exceedingly 
great interest that some account of it must be given. 
Probably prepared in the fifteenth century, it was written 
out in five large volumes, which were originally bound 
in leather-covered boards, ornamented, the prevailing 
device being a double-headed bird, displayed. The 
handwriting is, as a rule, bold and legible ; the ink 
still unfaded ; the material, parchment. Of the five 
volumes, four are still in existence ; one, the fourth, is, 
unfortunately, missing, though it is hoped that as it 
is improbable that it has been destroyed it will yet 
be found. Volume i contains 327 leaves ; Volume ii, 
292 ; Volume iii, 363 ; Volume v, 424. Volumes ii 
and v are still in the original binding. Of their history 
since the Dissolution, Mr. Lancaster gives some interest 
ing details. Volume i was in Sir Robert Cotton s library 
within a hundred years after the fall of Fountains, and 
was considerably damaged in a fire which took place 
in 1731. Repaired and rebound, but illegible in many 
places, it has been preserved amongst the Cottonian 
MSS. in the British Museum since 1754. Volume ii 
has been in possession of the Ingilbys of Ripley Castle 
for three hundred years. Volume iii, after belonging 
to the Fairfax family until 1751, was given by a Miss 
Fairfax to one of the Pulleyns of Burley : at a later 
date it was bought by the famous collector, Sir Thomas 
Phillipps ; at a still later, by the late Sir Thomas Brooke, 
who bequeathed it a few years ago to the British Museum. 
The story of volume v is almost romantic. After a 
long disappearance, during which many generations of 


Yorkshire antiquaries did their best to find it, it was 
discovered, very recently, in the office of a London 
solicitor, where it had evidently been lying for ages. 
It is now safely housed in the Rylands Library at Man 
chester. In the four volumes known, there are copies of 
over three thousand documents relating to the posses 
sions of the abbey grants, quit-claims, confirmations, 
agreements, law processes, and various memoranda. 
Mr. Lancaster s careful and scholarly abstract of these 
runs to close upon nine hundred closely printed quarto 
pages, an indication of what a vast body of property 
the abbot and monks of Fountains had to deal with when 
the Chartulary was written out in the fifteenth century. 


To analyse the contents of the three thousand docu 
ments contained in the Chartulary would require an in 
finite amount of time and patience, not to speak of skill. 
But we can gain some idea of their nature by looking 
through those referring to one particular place. Let us 
take those which relate to Dacre, near Pateley Bridge, in 
Nidderdale, in the heart of the district which was, as it 
were, the peculiar domain of Fountains. There are 
thirty-five separate documents grants, agreements, 
quit-claims, mandates, confirmations, certificates, and 
the like relating to Dacre : they are at the beginning of 
the second volume of the Chartulary. In No. i Roger 
de Mowbray grants to Bertram Haget the land of Dacre 
with everything appertaining thereto. In No. 2 Bertram 
Haget grants Dacre to the monks of Fountains in wood 
and plain and all things belonging : the monks are to 
give him yearly two marks of silver " as long as he 
shall desire to receive them." In No. 3 William Haget 
makes known that he has granted to the monks of 
Fountains all that his father Bertram gave, and has 
quit-claimed to them the recognition which they were 
accustomed to make to his father : for this quit-claim 
they have given him twenty-five marks and a palfrey. 


No. 4 is a confirmation of the Haget grant, by Roger 
de Mowbray. In No. 5 Roger de Mowbray makes a 
grant of various lands in Nidderdale : this document is 
interesting, because the grantor retains " nothing but 
stag, hind, wild boar, and birds of prey, but his foresters 
are to have no power there, and shall not be allowed to 
enter for any purpose except for guarding the beasts 
and birds." No. 6 is a confirmation by the King, 
Henry II, of No. 5. In Nos. 7 and 8 we learn that in 
exchange for his charter, the abbot and monks of 
Fountains gave Roger de Mowbray in aid of his journey 
to Jerusalem 120 marks, with 10 marks to his son Nigel, 
and i mark to his son Robert for their concurrence. 
No. II is interesting because of its reference to minerals ; N 
it is a grant by Roger de Mowbray of all copper, iron, 
lead, and every kind of metal and stone in his forest of 
Nidderdale, below ground or above ; it is further of 
interest because the document sets forth that the grant 
is made in compensation for the corn which his men 
took from the monks, and for 83 marks which the said 
monks have given him in his great necessity. The truth 
seems to be that Roger was always getting something 
out of the monks. No. 12 is a grant and confirmation 
by him of the grange of Dacre and certain additional 
lands, but for his gift to them the monks have given 
to him 100 Ib. of stiver. No. 14 sets forth that Roger 
gives to the infirm brethren of Fountains six stags yearly 
a proof that the Cistercian rule about flesh-diet was 
becoming rela xed. Roger seems to have departed this 
life about this time, and in No. 27 his son and heir 
John de Mowbray appears with a quit-claim to the 
monks of all right and claim to have or retain boar, 
wild or domestic, sow, or other kind of pigs in Dacre 
and other places. No. 28, an agreement between John 
de Mowbray and the Abbot and Convent of Fountains, 
is particularly interesting, inasmuch as it relates to the 
free chase of Nidderdale, and shows that the Cistercians 
were beginning to sport a little. While John and his 


heirs are to have free chase over the property, the abbot 
and monks are to retain a certain area for their own 
pleasure, and are to keep dogs, bows, and arrows within 
their lodges. There is also reference in this document 
to the monastic forge at Dacre, and to another close 
by, and to two furnaces, and to the burning of charcoal. 
No. 30, which is written in French, instead of Latin, 
is a mandate by John de Mowbray to his servants in 
Nidderdale, concerning the profits of the lead-mine found 
there. They belong, says John, not to himself, but to 
the Abbot of Fountains. 


That the monks of Fountains carried on an extensive 
trade in lead and in wool is well known. Fortune had 
placed them in close proximity to lead-mines which had 
been worked by the Romans a thousand years before 
the first walls of Fountains rose on the banks of the 
Skell : these mines may, indeed, have been worked by 
the Britons before the Romans came. But that they 
were worked to considerable extent in the neighbour 
hood of Dacre and Greenhow Hill by the Romans during 
the first Christian century is certain. In 173435, 
according to an article contributed by a local clergyman, 
the Rector of Ripley, to the Transactions of the Royal 
Society for 1740, two pigs of lead, each weighing about 
1 1 stone, were unearthed on Hayshaw Moor, each bear 
ing the inscription, in raised letters, Imp Cces Domino 
Aug Cos FII, on one side ; on the other the abbrevia 
tion Brig. This denotes that the pigs (one of which is 
in the British Museum, the other at Ripley Castle) were 
fashioned A.D. 87. The community of Fountains appears 
to have begun working these ancient lead-mines at a 
very early stage of their settlement ; probably, as time 
went on, they opened out others ; certainly, as we learn 
from such charters as those just referred to, they had 
full mineral rights in the district. At a point of the 
dale between Dacre and Pateley Bridge they established 


a smelting-works of considerable size : the place is 
called Smelthouse to this day. Here they used vast 
quantities of charcoal : it has always been said that 
the wood of the great forest of Knaresborough was 
entirely burned up by the Fountains monks in their 
smelting-works and forges. Some years ago a quantity 
of lead ore was found in the River Nidd in laying the 
foundations of a bridge. This, without doubt, had been 
dropped from the packs of the monastic mules which 
carried ore from the mines at Greenhow to the smelting- 
works just mentioned. As to the trade in wool, the 
Cistercians were always famous as sheep-farmers, and 
during the best days of Fountains the community there 
must have had enormous flocks of sheep on its wide- 
spreading estates. The number of sheep in hand at the 
time of the Dissolution between two and three thousand 
was probably small in comparison with the number 
usually kept. Sheepfolds are constantly referred to in 
the chartularies ;"| shearing-places were established in 
several places about the monastic lands, and at Kilnsey, 
in Whaffedale, there was a famous one, whereat thou 
sands of sheep were shorn every year. In those ages 
in which wool, to be exact, was merely another name 
for money (Parliament, for example, instead of voting 
Edward III so much money in 1340, granted him 30,000 
sacks of wool), the Cistercian revenues in the case of 
Fountains, at any rate must have been enormous. 

14. BYLAND. 

The great and powerful family of de Mowbray is 
frequently mentioned in the early documents of the 
Yorkshire Cistercian houses, particularly in connexion 
with Fountains, Rievaulx, and Byland. Byland, indeed, 
owed to Roger de Mowbray what Fountains owed, 
virtually, to Archbishop Thurstan, and Rievaulx to 
Walter Espec. But Byland, like the other houses, was 
liberally endowed with lands and properties by other 
folk of the neighbourhood and county : amongst these 


was the family of Engelram, Engeram, Ingelram, Inge- 
ram, or as we now know it Ingram. And in con 
nexion with their gift to Byland there is an interesting 
proof that however pious and amicable may have been 
the relations between the original benefactors and 
original beneficiaries, the relations of their successors 
were not always so satisfactory. In 1239 (Curia Regis, 
No. i20,Trin., 23 Hen. Ill, m. 8 d.) the Abbot of Byland 
summons Robert Engeram to answer in a plea that he 
should warrant a certain spring with appurtenances in 
Dale, which the abbot holds of him by virtue of a charter 
granted by Robert s father, William. William Engeram, 
says the abbot, gave to God and the monks of St. Mary 
of Byland a spring, in the territory of Dale, called 
Wudekelde, and free and sufficient way to the spring 
for the abbot and his folk, and for all the cattle at the 
abbey grange of Morton : now, the abbot complains, 
Robert has so much narrowed the way that the abbot s 
folk cannot come at the spring to water the cattle ; 
moreover, Robert has so far forgot himself as to seize 
some of the abbot s cattle at the spring and to put them 
in pound. And so the abbot claims 100 damages, a 
terrible sum in those days. However, Robert appears, 
admits the charter, and denies that he has done anything 
whatever contrary to its provisions : therefore, says the 
court, let him wage his law twelve-handed that is, 
with eleven compurgators. 


We get an idea of certain curious privileges, perqui 
sites, and rights of the monastic communities from the 
reports of their legal cases, which show that the monks 
not only gathered in wealth in various ways, but were 
quick to resent any slackness on the part of those who 
were in any way indebted to them. In 1239 we ^ nc ^- 
the Abbot of Byland suing Peter de Brus (one of the 
powerful family whose name is better known in history 
as Bruce) for 8000 haddocks. It appears that Peter 


has agreed to pay the abbot an annual rent of 1000 
haddocks : now he is eight years in arrears with his 
rent : 8000 haddocks, therefore, he owes, and most 
unjustly detains. In 1283 the Abbot of Byland goes 
to law with John de Eyvill about the rights and wrongs 
of a fishery in the River Swale : in 1282 several men of 
the Bradford and Oxenhope neighbourhood are prose 
cuted for cutting the abbot s trees at Wolsendene : in 
1369 a certain undesirable tenant named William de 
Atton is summoned for making bad use of the houses, 
gardens, and woods which the abbot has let to him at 
Kirkeby Malesart. Men are frequently brought before 
the court for digging and carrying away turves from 
the abbot s turbaries, or for turning out cattle into 
the abbot s grass-lands, or for damaging the abbot s 
woods. Clearly it is necessary to keep a sharp eye 
on things, if the community is to profit by its own 


From the legal cases we also get some notion of other 
possessions than land and wood and fishing rights. In 
an assize case of 1249 (Curia Regis, No. 135, Mich., 33 
& 34 Hen. Ill, m. 10) we hear that the Abbot of Byland 
had common of pasture in Kilburn (this is merely an 
example of what he had in one parish, out of scores in 
which he had rights) for 600 sheep and their lambs, until 
separated from their mothers, and pasture for four score 
and fifteen oxen, two bulls, and thirty cows. In the 
case Abbot of Byland v. Roger and Joan de Burton, 
Robert and Alice de Burcy, and John and Sibill de 
Staveleye, arising out of another case in which the 
abbot was complainant and Stephen de Meynil (grand 
father of Joan, Alice, and Sibill) defendant, mention 
occurs of pasture for 400 sheep at Thurkleby : the same 
case comes up again, obviously unsettled, six years later. 
But all around Byland had by that time become a fine 
grazing country, and successive abbots doubtless knew 



that in good pastures, well filled with sheep and cattle, 
lay the means of wealth and comfort. 


Whether the Cistercians of Jervaulx were, relatively, 
so rich in sheep as their brothers of Fountains and 
Byland, is not so clear from the available chronicles. 
But for some centuries they were famous for breeding 
horses, and it may be that some of the fine racehorses 
which in our time have hailed from Middleham and the 
surrounding high ground whereon so many training- 
stables have existed at one time or another, sprang from 
the stock sedulously cultivated by the Jervaulx monks. 
There is in the Cotton MSS. a curious letter written by 
Sir Arthur Darcy to Thomas Cromwell, in June 1537, 
in which significant mention occurs of the Jervaulx 
breed : 

It schall lyke your honourabyll lordschypp to be advertyssed, 
that I was with my lorde Lewtenant att the suppresyon off 
Gervayes, whyche howes within the gatt ys coveryd wholly with 
leadd, and ther is oon off the ffayrest chyrches that I have sseen, 
ffayr medooze, and the ryver runnyng by ytt, and a gret domayne. 
The kynges hyeness is att greatt charge with hys sstoodes off 
mares, att Thornbery and other placys, whyche arr ffyne 
growndes, and I thynke thatt att Gervayes and in the grangyes 
incydent, with the hellp off ther grett large commones, the 
kynges hyeness by good oversseers scholld have ther the most 
best pasture that scholld be in Yngland, hard and sownd off 
kynd, ffor ssurly the breed off Gervayes ffor horses was the tryed 
breed in the nortbe, the Stallones and marees well assortyd, I 
thynke in no reallme scholld be ffownd the lykes to them, ffor 
ther is large and hye growndes ffor the ssomer, and in wynter 
wooddes and low growndes to serve them. 

The bleak and cold situation of which the first settlers 
of Jervaulx complained, no doubt soon proved to them 
that the cultivation of wheat and barley, or even of 
oats, would not be a profitable undertaking, and they 
would appear to have turned their attention to horse- 


breeding at an early period. Above the abbey were"] 
extensive moors on which, horses could range amidst 
pure air ; certain it is, at any rate, that the Jervaulx 
breed became famous, and that a good deal of present- 
day pedigree blood has sprung from it. 


Jervaulx was one of the least wealthy of the Yorkshire 
houses, above the ^200 limit which was fixed as a 
demarcation line in 1536, but its abbots were not behind 
their brethren of the more important communities in 
insisting and jealously guarding their properties. In the 
various legal records there are numerous instances of 
process. In 1284 (De Banco, Mich., 12 & 13 Edw. I, 
in. 49 d.) the Abbot of Jervaulx sues Roger de Montef orti 
to perform the services due for the free tenement which 
he holds of the abbot in Feldon namely, a messuage 
and half a carucate of land for homage, and a service 
of 2od. when there is a scutage of 40^., of which homage 
and service, says the abbot, a former abbot, Thomas, 
was seised in fee in right of his church in the time of 
Henry III. Roger, however, declares that the claim is 
in error : he holds nothing of the abbot. In 1298 the 
Abbot of Jervaulx sues Nigel de Stayneford, Henry de 
Stayneford, WilHam Queldrik, and some others, assisting 
them, for rescuing certain of Nigel s goods which the 
abbot had impounded at Horton in Ribblesdale. In 
1300 the abbot makes complaint against Henry the 
Forester of Austewyke for pulling down a wall in Horton 
to the damage of the abbot s free tenement. Seventy- 
eight years later another Abbot of Jervaulx sues Sir 
James de Pykering for laying waste, selling, and destroy 
ing certain lands, houses, and gardens in Sadbergh in 
Lonesdale which Abbot John de Newby had demised to 
Sir James for a certain number of years, an instance 
that the bad tenant was not unknown in those days. 
In 1423 the Abbot of Jervaulx prosecutes Henry Yong 
of Grysdale, yeoman, Henry Fauset of Stedalegayle, 


yeoman, and Edmund de Stokdale of Snaysome in 
Wenslawedale, yeoman, for that they did seize and carry 
off four score bullocks at Snaysome and Wyddall, the 
value of the said bullocks being .40, which shows that 
in 1423 a bullock was worth precisely los. Sometimes, 
in these legal records, the abbot and brethren appear, 
not as complainants, but as defendants. In 1290 one 
Adam de Haskerugg (Askrigg) sues the Abbot of Jer- 
vaulx, Brother Thomas de Mildeby, Brother William de 
Braxerton, Brother John de Benigton, monks of the 
house, Brother William de Bentham, Brother William 
Skot, John de Bellerby, and others for assaulting him 
at Haleshall on the Sunday after the Feast of St. Bar 
tholomew, 17 Edw. I, and taking him to Elnonhall and 
there keeping him in fetters and in prison for seven 
days, and for taking his goods and chattels to the value 
of 10 ; to wit, a horse worth 2os., and corn worth .9. 
The abbot answers to this that Adam is his villain. 
Adam claims that he is nothing of the sort, but a free 
man. Whereupon the case is put to a jury, but what 
its verdict was is not recorded (De Banco, Mich., 18 & 19 
Edw. I, m. 134). In 1405, according to the Gaol 
Delivery Roll, No. 191, m. 23, Richard, Abbot of Jer- 
vaulx, and William Sallay and William de Middilham, 
monks of that house, were indicted for compounding a 
felony. On the previous November 25 one William de 
Oxthwayte had stolen a bay horse from the abbot and 
Brother William Sallay at Pateley Bridge, the value 
thereof being 2os. Afterwards, as seems somewhat 
natural, the abbot and the others took the horse back 
and allowed the thief to go free. Hence the prosecution, 
to which the defendants pleaded the general pardon 
recently granted to all in like case. 


All these matters and incidents, it will be observed, 
have to do with the possession or accumulation of 
property. They have nothing to do with religion. 


True, when the abbot is suing this man for forty pence, 
or resisting the claim of that in respect of forty acres, 
he is prosecuting the claims or defending the rights of 
himself and his fellow-religious. But the vast mass of 
documents, chartularies, coucher books, legal records, 
amounting in number to thousands upon thousands 
where the eight Yorkshire Cistercian houses are con 
cerned, proves that after the first enthusiasm had cooled, 
the Order was chiefly occupied in laying field to field, 
house to house, flock to flock, and chattel to chattel. 
Doubtless much of the wealth so gathered was well and 
wisely expended in the improvement of the monastic 
estates, in the furtherance of agriculture, in hospitality 
to wayfarers, and in relief of the poor, but it is impossible 
to deny that the greater part of it went in building and 
ornamenting churches and cloisters in a style out of all 
keeping with the strictness, the simplicity, and the 
ascetic principles of the first Cistercian statutes, or 
that vast sums were spent in litigation. The austere 
ideal of the original Cistercian plan of architecture gave 
place to more elaborate building of the church ; the 
cloister, first arranged on the simple lines of Citeaux and 
Clairvaux, was developed into the magnificence which 
may be studied at Fountains. The old rules as to 
simplicity of ritual and the use of vestment and furnish 
ing were broken ; in these matters the Order began to 
approximate to the usages of the Cluniacs, and elabora 
tion of the sanctuary and more attention to ceremony 
replaced the original severity and plainness. With these 
changes came others in the rule of life ; the laxity which 
Prior Richard had so vehemently denounced amongst 
the Benedictines of York, had, by the fourteenth century, 
appeared amongst the Cistercians of Fountains and Kirk- 
stall : from that time onward the various communities 
may be regarded as great corporations, whose chief care, 
while still keeping up a certain amount of discipline, 
and obeying their obligations of hospitality and charity, 
was in the administration of vast estates, not always 


managed without infinite trouble and anxiety. The 
chief responsibility of the abbot now lay not in that 
care for religion which had so characterized Richard of 
Fountains, but in keeping count of the possessions which 
had gradually accrued to his house. Hence the multi 
plication of charters and grants, agreements and quit 
claims ; hence the constant litigation ; the almost fierce 
grip of the spiritual fingers on the worldly thing. 

20. SALLEY. 

Even Salley, poorest of the eight Yorkshire houses, 
and the only one that failed to come up to the ^200 
standard of 1536, was as much concerned as the rest 
in accumulating the goods of this life. It was far out 
of the way, far more removed from the busy centres of 
that day than any of the others, set in wild solitudes 
at the foot of the gaunt and gloomy western hills, yet 
the worldly spirit found its way thither even across the 
lonely stretches of Craven. The legal records contain 
many instances of how the monks of Salley went to law 
in respect of their lands and property. The legal 
processes were not always against lay-folk. In 1282, 
according to the De Banco Rolls, Thomas, Abbot of 
Sawley, sued William, Abbot of Selby, in respect of a 
fine made in the King s Court between the late Abbot 
of Selby and the plaintiff, concerning the manor of 
Staynton in Craven. In 1300 Abbot Roger brought 
William de Aldefeld, parson of Bolton in Bowland, 
before the court in respect of an acre of land in Bolton, 
which was the right, according to the abbot, of his 
Church of the Blessed Mary of Salley. Prosecutions in 
respect of game trespass are recorded at an early stage ; 
they, too, are not always against laymen. In 1285 the 
abbot prosecutes John de Knoll, parson of the church 
of Gisturn in Craven, Thomas and John, the said 
parson s sons, and Edmund de Morton for entering the 
free warren of the abbot at several places in the neigh 
bourhood and catching and carrying away game an 


instance that some, at any rate, of the secular clergy 
were married, and that country parsons were not averse 
to poaching. The usual complaints are found against 
tenants in respect of waste and neglect of property. 
How rigorous the abbots were in exacting their dues 
is shown by cases in which their bailiffs are brought 
before the courts to give reasonable account of their 
time ; one, who managed the abbot s manor of Sunder- 
land, points out on appearance that Sunderland is in 
Lancashire, whereas the abbot s writ is directed to the 
Sheriff of Yorkshire : the defendant is accordingly 
awarded judgment. Now and then the abbot appears 
as defendant : in 1433 Richard Redemayn, Esquire, 
sues William, Abbot of Salley, for his neglect in repair 
ing a certain ditch of water running between Richard s 
estate and the abbatial domain, whereby the water has 
overflowed and flooded twelve acres of the complainant s 
corn-land : Richard wants 20 for damages. And in 
1299, Roger, Abbot of Salley, with Brother Richard 
de Edenford and Brother John de Houeden, monks, 
are summoned by Roger le Tannur of Quixley for that 
they did assault him at Sunderland to his grievous 


Although Salley was the poorest of the Yorkshire 
Cistercian houses, the list from the conventual register, 
referred to in the Monasticon Anglicanum, shows that 
it possessed property in thirty-eight different places, 
most of which were in Yorkshire. Whitaker, in his 
history of Craven, gives an abstract of the accounts 
appearing in the Compotus of 1381, from which it appears 
that the receipts that year came to 347 14^. J^d., and 
the expenditure to 355 13^. io|J. The tithes of Gar- 
grave that year yielded 52 js. 8d. ; the number of 
acres in the parish is set down as 10,420. The prices 
of produce and food are particularized. Wheat fetched 
6s. Sd. a quarter ; barley, 4^. ; beans, 45-. ; oats, 2s. ; 


wool was selling at zs. the stone ; 155 quarters of corn 
were used by the community for bread ; the horses 
consumed 139 quarters of oats. There is a record that 
no fewer than 255 quarters of malted oats and barley 
were brewed into ale, but there is surely some error 
in this, for it would mean that each inmate of the 
house (reckoning their number at 70, and the yield in 
gallons of liquor at 60 per quarter) drank 300 gallons 
of ale in the year, nearly a gallon a day. One entry 
shows that Thomas Boulton received .1 45. for the year s 
yield of milk from 24 cows. The wages of 45 servants 
of the house are accounted for. The prior s chamber 
lain received 6 ; the convent cook, 14^. 8^. ; the 
tailor, los. ; the poultry-keeper, 2s. a year each : the 
wages of the 45 came to under 30. At this time the 
abbot and monks owned 70 cattle, 30 milch cows, and 
35 horses. It is a somewhat significant fact that accord 
ing to these accounts all that was distributed in charity 
in that year, 1381, was $s. 8^. 


The Sir Arthur Darcy who "wrote to Thomas Cromwell 
about the famous horses of Jervaulx came into posses 
sion of the lands of Salley at the Dissolution, and in the 
Calendar of State Papers, temp. Henry VIII (xiii. 409) 
there is a list of the principal holdings of the abbey, 
which he had granted to him in fee simple, and in 
exchange for the manor of Grenesnorton, Northampton 
shire. He got, May 9, 1538, " the site, circuit, and 
precinct of the monastery of St. Mary, Sawley, Yorks, 
dissolved ; the lordships or manors of Staynforth, Lang- 
cliff, and Stanton ; the manor and forest of Gisbourne ; 
a moiety of the manor of Bolton ; annual rent of 4 6s. 
from the vill of Grynleton ; tenements and messuages 
in Brandford, Chepyng, Waddyngton, Wourston, Chats- 
bourne, Downham, Renyngton, Gaisgill, Lytton, Barm- 
by, Rassemell, Cottill, Pathern, Newstune, Swynden, 
Ilklaye, Farneleaye, Halton, parish of Whitkirk, Gather- 


ton, Sledebourne, Button ; rents in Whitwourthe ; the 
advowsons and rectories of Tadcaster and Gargrave ; 
a rent of 53.5-. 4^. due to the late abbot by the Abbot of 
Fornes ; and all other lands which belonged to the said 
monastery of Sawley." According to the account of 
the King s Receiver, Leonard Beckwith, the plate and 
jewels of the abbey were worth 72 zs. lod. ; the rest 
of the goods, together with the lead and bells, sold by 
the King s officers to Sir Arthur Darcy, fetched 
300 iSs. id. 


The Coucher Book of Kirkstall, " an ancient volume 
now containing one hundred and fifteen leaves of parch 
ment enclosed in a brown leather cover," which, after 
being long preserved amongst the records of the Duchy 
of Lancaster, has been safely treasured in the Public 
Record Office since 1868, was edited for the Thoresby 
Society s Publications by Mr. W. T. Lancaster and Mr. 
W. P. Baildon some years ago, and published by the 
society in 1904. It had been much damaged in times 
past, and though the writing of the original compiler 
is still wonderfully clear, and the ink still black, many 
parts are undecipherable. Its contents are of a strange 
variety, not unfamiliar in books of this nature. The 
book was clearly intended to be a record of the muni 
ments by which the Kirkstall brotherhood held their 
various properties. But in time the blank spaces 
between the copies of the charters came to be filled up 
with other matters, from a Papal Bull to a simple recipe 
for medicine : odd corners, too, are filled with memo 
randa of no particular importance. Nor is it a complete 
record of all the numerous grants to the abbey : it is 
highly probable that a more important, perhaps a full, 
chartulary, was at some time in existence, may, indeed, 
like the missing volume of Fountains, be in existence 
now in some hole or corner of a library or a legal office. 
Still, the Kirkstall Coxicher Book contains quite enough 


to show that between 1150 and 1350 the community 
had acquired vast wealth in land, houses, wool, goods, 
and other sorts of property. Like other monastic works 
of the same class it embraces copies of charters, grants, 
fines, and, needless to say, a considerable number of 
reports and accounts of legal processes. 


One of the first points to be noted in the book is 
that when the community removed from Barnoldswick 
to Kirkstall in 1152 it does not seem to have possessed 
anything. Beyond the original grant of land at Barnolds 
wick, made by Henry de Lacy (as a matter of strict 
fact, the land so given, though granted in good faith 
by de Lacy, did not belong to him at all, but to Hugh 
Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, to whom the monks found them 
selves obliged to pay rent during his lifetime), nothing 
whatever seems to have been given to them at Barnolds 
wick. But almost from the very first days of the 
arrival of Abbot Alexander and the brethren at Kirk- 
stall donations of property flowed in upon them. Much 
of this was in their immediate neighbourhood, at places 
like Horsforth, Headingley, Cookridge, Brearey, Round- 
hay, Allerton, Austhorpe, Seacroft, Osmondthorpe, Shad- 
well, Bramhope,"Arthington. By the end of the century 
the community at Kirkstall had become possessed of 
landed property on three sides of Leeds west, north, 
east. But it had not gained anything in Leeds itself. 
" Even two hundred years later," write the editors of 
the Thoresby Society s reprint, " the possessions of the 
abbey within Leeds were merely nominal. It was not 
until the last seventy or eighty years of its existence 
that it acquired (no doubt by purchase) a moderate 
estate in the town. It is somewhat singular to reflect 
that the great abbey, now perhaps the most valued 
possession of the citizens of Leeds, was founded and 
endowed without any assistance from their predecessors, 
except possibly some small pecuniary help." But lands 


continued to be acquired around Leeds the Reinevilles, 
an ancient family which had long been leading tenants 
of the de Lacys, gave land in Bramley and at Armley ; 
Samson de Allerton gave two carucates in West and a 
bpvate in " the other " Allerton : as in the case of 
Fountains, the Abbot of Kirkstall was soon able to 
walk many miles round about his church and cloister 
without setting foot off his own property. 

25. DONORS. 

The benefactions of the de Lacys to Kirkstall did 
not end with the debatable gift of Barnoldswick and 
the more certain one at Kirkstall itself. Robert de 
Lacy, son and successor of the Henry who had made 
these first grants, proved himself a much more liberal 
donor than his father. Henry had already before his 
death given the monks a house at Snydale, near Ponte- 
fract ; Robert, confirming this, added to it three caru 
cates of land, a valuable gift, which, supplemented 
eventually by some smaller ones from well-disposed folk 
of the neighbourhood, came to produce at least 16 a 
year. Near this was another gift of Robert s, the grange 
of Loscoe. South-east of Pontefract, some of the de 
Lacy tenants proved generous : Noel (Christian name 
not given in Charter ccxiii) and William FitzGerald 
gave land at Darrington ; Richard, son of Alan Noel, 
supplemented this with more in the same parish; 
Haimeric gave five acres at Stapleton ; Alan, son of 
Robert, gave four acres in Smeaton. All these holdings, 
of course, were on the Lacy property. Through the 
generosity of Robert de Lacy, and later through that 
of John de Lacy, the Kirkstall community also acquired 
a considerable tract of land in the forest of Bowland. 
In the south-east of Yorkshire they got land at Bessacar 
in the parish of Cantley, near Doncaster : this was 
given by Adam Fitz-Peter, who also granted them 
certain common rights at Horsforth. Valuable grants 
were made to the community by owners in the neighbour- 


hood of Bradford : at an early date in the history of 
Kirkstall Hugh Vavasour gave a moiety of the vill of 
Newhall-in-Bowling ; later, John, son of Reynold, gave 
three bovates and the service of a fourth in the same 
township ; and John the Archer gave four bovates in 
Horton, to be held, as appears from No. cclxx in the 
Coucher Book, by delivery of a pair of white spurs 
every year. One of the earliest grants ever made to 
the abbey, nearly contemporaneous with those in Head- 
ingley and at Allerton, was that by Adam, son of Gos- 
patric, who gave what developed into a fine estate in 
the neighbourhood of Keighley. But the number of 
benefactors to Kirkstall who might be mentioned is 
considerable, and the particulars of their benefactions 
still more so. Incomplete as the Coucher Book is, its 
separate documents run well into the fourth hundred. 


Legal proceedings in defence or pursuance of the 
abbey s rights are recorded in the Coucher Book at 
some length, and are of rather more interest than the 
majority of monastic law cases. Early in the reign of 
Edward III, William, Abbot of Kirkstall, brought a 
suit against the King and his mother in respect of the 
common rights of the manor of Barnoldswick. The 
epitome of the case fills thirteen pages in the Coucher 
Book, and is thus summarized by the editors of the 
Thoresby Society s reprint : " The complaint of the 
abbot was that Henry de Lacy, the great Earl of Lincoln, 
who had come to the assistance of the monks in their 
financial difficulties in 1287, had, some nine or ten years 
later, taken a large tract of the waste lands appertaining 
to their manor of Barnoldswick, the oldest possession of 
the abbey, into his adjoining forest of Blackburnshire, 
and thus deprived the monks of their common rights 
over this area, and that this deprivation had continued 
under the subsequent owners of the forest. The proceed 
ings extended over several years before the case was 


ended in the abbot s favour." Document cccxxiv 
shows how the mercantile spirit had entered into the 
affairs of the Order. In 1292 Kirkstall agreed to sell 
all its wool to the trading society of the Betti of Lucca 
for a period of ten years. During the first three it was 
to be sold as it came from the sheep, at u marks the 
sack ; during the remaining seven it was to be sorted 
into good, middling, and inferior at 15, 9^, and 8 marks 
respectively. The Betti fell into financial difficulties 
and either could not or would not carry out their bargain. 
But they had paid Kirkstall 160 marks in advance, 
which was to be allowed them out of yearly payments, 
and this amount, appearing as a debt against the monks 
in the society s books, was assigned to the English 
Crown, whereupon the law officers sued the Abbot of 
Kirkstall for the money. The abbot, however, easily 
won his case ; he proved that he had always been 
ready and able to supply the wool, that the Betti had 
failed in their contract, and that, therefore, the advance 
of 1 60 marks was forfeit. Many entries also occur in 
the Coucher Book relating to the protracted litigation 
between Kirkstall and the Everingham family with rela 
tion to the lands granted by Adam Fitz-Peter to Haver- 
holm Priory, a Gilbertine house in Lincolnshire, which 
had made over its rights in these lands to Kirkstall 
This matter formed the ground of legal process lasting 
over a hundred years ; nor was it the only lengthy legal 
dispute in similar matters in which Kirkstall was 


Folk who have much property are doubtless often 
sore vexed by small attempts on it ; and in the De 
Banco Rolls there are numerous instances of how the 
abbots of Kirkstall were constantly invoking the aid 
of the law to protect and right them. The Kirkstall 
community, indeed, seems to have had as much expe 
rience of litigation as that of Fountains. In his Monastic 


Note?, Mr. W. P. Baildon cites forty cases in which its 
abbot figured, extracted from the various legal records 
between 1260 and 1517. They are of the usual type 
found in such records processes for acquittals of service ; 
claims in respect of property ; prosecutions for damage 
to wood, crops, pasture ; forcible seizure and detention 
of cattle ; making waste of houses and gardens ; trespass 
in pursuit of game, and the like. One case in 1399 
(De Banco, Hil., 22 Ric. II, m. 273) shows that the 
abbots of Kirkstall were then working coal-mines at 
Snydale, now in the heart of the Yorkshire coal-field. 
Richard Bayldon of Snytall is summoned for digging 
the abbot s sea-coal there to the value of 20, a great 
sum in those days. In a case of 1292, which appears 
to have occupied the attention of the court during four 
different terms (in 19, 20, & 21 Edw. I), there is an 
instance of those disputes about customary right which 
were so frequent at this period. John Sampson laid 
a complaint against John de Brydesale of Kirkestal and 
Adam le Hunter for detaining an iron hammer which 
they took from him on Eccup Moor, thereby damaging 
him to the value of 405. The defendants pleaded that 
they were the Abbot of Kirkstall s bailiffs, and that 
their master was owner of the soil of the said moor, 
that they found John Sampson working on the moor, 
where he had no right except common, and, therefore, 
they took his hammer from him. To this the com 
plainant answered that the Abbot and Convent of Kirk- 
stall had enfeoffed him of two messuages and two caru- 
cates of land in Touhuses, and he had a customary 
right to take stones on the moor for building and other 
necessary works in the said tenements. The defendants 
replied that they could not admit any such rights 
without the abbot ; the court therefore orders the abbot 
to be summoned. Another case shows that even if, as 
Thorold Rogers remarks in his History of Agriculture and. 
Prices^ the practice of selling villains was practically non 
existent from 1260, the abbots, as lords of manors, kept 


a tight hold on the folk of villain class. In 1289 the 
Abbot of Kirkstall prosecutes Thomas de Eltoft, Nigel 
de Wetherby, and Geofferey Stalle for forcibly rescuing 
one Robert Bateman, son of Richar Wigan, the abbot s 
native, in his manor of Berdeseye, whom the abbot, for 
a certain act of rebellion, had put in the stocks, prepara 
tory to whipping him. In the Coucher Book, docu 
ments ccxc to ccc record grants of villains or natives by 
their owners sometimes the gift is a free one ; some 
times a money payment is made, varying from 4^. 6d. 
to 535. 4^. 


As in the case of Kirkstall, the principal possessions 
of Roche were in the immediate neighbourhood of the 
abbey, but the community held certain lands in the 
adjacent counties of Lincoln and Nottingham, and, 
further off, in those of Lancaster and Derby. Aveling, 
in his History of Roche Abbey, enumerates well over one 
hundred different places in which the Abbot of Roche 
held land and property. As in the cases of the other 
Yorkshire Cistercian houses the donors were many. 
Richard de Busli and Richard Fitz-Turgis were the 
original founders ; the first gave " the whole wood from 
the .middle of the road from Eilrichethorpe to Lowth-\ 
waite, and so far as the water which is the boundary 
between Maltby and Hooton, and the two sarts [wood 
turned into arable land] which belong to Gamul, with 
a great culture which is there adjacent, and common of 
pasture for a hundred sheep, in number six score, in 
the soke of Maltby " ; the second gave " the whole 
land from the borders of Eilrichethorpe, as far as the 
brow of the hill beyond the stream which runs from 
Fogswell, and so to a heap of stones which lies in the 
sart of Elsi, and so beyond the road as far as the Wolfpit, 
and so by the head of the culture of Hartshow to the 
borders of Slade Hooton ; all that land, and all that 
wood below these bounds and common of pasture of 


all my land, and fifty carts loads every year in my wood 
of Wickersley " : a very generous endowment on both 
sides to begin with. As time went on many piously 
disposed folk added to these lands, with the reasons 
and after the fashion of those days. Jeremiah, the 
parson of Rossington, gives all his meadow in South 
Wood, with his corpse. William and Robert, sons of 
Gerbode, give thirty acres of land and pasture for 180 
sheep at Braithwell. Leo de Manvers gives a grange 
at Brancliffe. Robert de Herthwic, for the good of the 
soul of Beatrix, his wife, gives two acres of land at 
Broom Riddings. William, Earl Warren, makes a hand 
some grant at Cumberworth ; William de Chaworth 
gives property near Wadworth ; Eugenia, relict of 
Gilbert de Micklebring, gives four acres at that place, 
with consent of Peter de Rhodes, her deceased spouse s 
lord. Now and then the King himself gives something ; 
Cardinal Stephen Langton makes the community a 
present of the prebend of Laughton. In Derbyshire, 
William Avenal, Lord of Haddon, gives a grange at 
Oneash ; in Lincolnshire, Walter de Falcunbridge con 
firms the gift of two ox-gangs which Walter de Kad- 
burne had aforetime made at Kirby ; in Nottingham, 
Matilda de Moles, before the year 1208, gives to Roche 
all the lands which the men of Blythe held of Hugh de 
Moles, her brother, and afterwards of herself in the 
fields of Serlby ; in Lancashire much valuable property 
is given at Rochdale by the Lord Robert de Stapelton, 
confirmed later by his grandson, Warinus de Scargill. 
One of the Paynels, or Paganels, well known as Church 
benefactors, Philip, Lord of West Raven, acknowledging 
that he has " received and had of the religious men, the 
Abbot and Convent of Roche, six hundred marks of good 
and lawful sterling money," assigns to them, with Royal 
licence, the messuage and thirty-two bovates of land at 
Roxby which from that time, 1293, brings them in a 
handsome yearly income, worth, at the Dissolution, 
some ^400 a year of our money. So it is, all through 


the records ; during the first century and a half of 
their presence in the county all the landowners are 
disposed to add their quota to the growing possessions 
of the Cistercians, even if some little matter of money 
is asked in return. But as a rule all that is asked is the 
prayers of the community, and sometimes the privilege 
of sepulture within the sacred walls. 


After the usual fashion, successive abbots of Roche 
had much trouble in defending their wealth and property. 
They, too, seem to have been constantly engaged in 
litigation, and it was not always with the encroaching 
layman. In 1310 the Abbot of Roche and the Abbot 
of Whalley came to differences over a matter of tithes, 
arising out of the Lancashire possessions of each. 
Instead of going to the courts, however, they referred 
their case to a general chapter, which appointed the 
Abbots of Rievaulx and Buildwas to judge it. These 
dignitaries seem to have sat at Wakefield ; there, at 
any rate, on the " Friday next after the Feast of St. 
Barnabas the Apostle, A.D. 1310," they gave judgment 
to the effect that " the said Abbot of Roche [shall] pay 
every year to the aforesaid Abbot of Whalley . . . forty 
pence of silver and one pound of wax and one pound 
of frankincense at the two terms of the year, viz. twenty 
pence and one pound of wax at the feast of St. Martin 
in the Winter, and twenty pence and one pound of 
frankincense at Pentecost for all tithes of garbs of all 
lands cultivated and to be cultivated pertaining to the 
said place of Hillingthorpe, according to the command 
of the bull of Lord Boniface VIII, Pope." Not all the 
disputes were so easily and amicably settled, however 
as at Fountains and Kirkstall, Byland and Jervaulx, 
there were constant legal difficulties which necessitated 
resort to law. One such case in 1300 (De Banco, East., 
28 Edw. I, m. 19) shows how the monastic authorities 
got embroiled in niceties of land tenure. Roger de 



Bladdesworth and Joan, his wife, complained that John, 
Abbot of Roche, Brother Stephen de Staynton, Brother 
Richard de Weteweng, Peter de Lund and Alice, his 
wife, and John, son of Nicholas, son of Reginald de 
Barneby, had unjustly disseised them of a toft, fourteen 
acres of land, and three acres of meadow in Barneby 
on Dun. The abbot said that Richard, Joan s father, 
held the land of him in villainage, and after Richard s 
death, Alice, his daughter, Joan s sister, held it in 
villainage, and that Alice afterwards fled the country, 
and that Roger and Joan wished to enter, claiming the 
fee as Joan s free tenement, which he, the abbot, would 
not permit. The plaintiffs said that Alice died seised 
of the property, and that Joan succeeded as sister and 
heir, and was in possession until the defendants disseised 
her. The jury (says Mr. W. P. Baildon, who gives this 
case in Monastic Notes) found for the plaintiffs, with 
30^. damages, but as against Peter de Lund and his 
wife for the defendants. 

30. MEAUX. 

Of all the eight Cistercian houses of Yorkshire, Meaux 
appears to have had more difficulty and trouble arising 
from possession of land and property than any other. 
The documents relating to it are not good to read if 
one bears in mind the original ideas of the founders of 
the Cistercian Order. It cannot have been within the 
great and magnificent scheme of Stephen Harding and 
Bernard of Clairvaux that their followers were to spend 
so much time in either acquiring the goods of this world, 
or, having secured them, in fighting so strenuously to 
pocket them, not to speak of attempting to gain more. 
But so it was in many instances, and notably in that 
of this East Riding house. " The chronicles of the 
religious house of Meaux," writes Mr. Earle, who made 
an exhaustive study of the various documents, " are 
an account of the acquiring of property, and the struggle 
to keep it or increase it : and their abbots and monks 


are the most highly esteemed who are able best to guide \ 
successfully the temporal affairs of the house. There / 
is no religious spirit pervading the chronicles, however - x 
much there may have been in the actual house itself ; / 
there are no elevating thoughts. The reading of them / 
leaves one with the unsatisfying feeling that the interests 
of St. Mary lay not in the souls of mankind, but in 
ox-gangs and wool and mills." This remark may, with 
all truth, be applied to the records of every one of the 
Cistercian houses of Yorkshire after the first enthu 
siasm for reform and for austerity had passed : the 
flame of the newly lighted candle had burned brightly 
and refreshingly for a time, but strict adherence to the 
plain facts of history compels one to say that the time 
was limited. 


According to the Chronica Monasterii de Melsa, edited 
by Mr. E. A. Bond for the Rolls Series, the abbot and 
monks of Meaux possessed landed properties in well 
over one hundred different places, most of them in the 
immediate neighbourhood of the abbey, or in the adjacent 
East Riding In Holderness, and at the foot of the 
Wolds, and in the country lying between Beverley and 
Driffield, there are many places to this day called 
Grange these, of course, were the monastic granges on 
the outlying lands. Eventually, the abbots of Meaux 
farmed out a great deal of their land, and thus became 
considerable landlords, possibly the most important 
landlords of the district. But a great portion of the 
communal property was retained and farmed by the 
brotherhood. For a long period Holderness has been 
famous for sheep-breeding, wheat-growing, and horse- 
rearing ; it is probable that the Cistercians of Meaux 
were the original pioneers in these three branches of 
agriculture. They certainly produced a great deal of 
wool, grew a great quantity of corn, and invariably 
possessed a goodly stock of horses. Mr. Earle, in his 


Essays upon the History of Meaux Abbey, gives a tabu 
lated account of the community s possessions in these 
matters between the years 1280 and 1396. This shows 
that the house owned : 

In 1280, 11,000 sheep, 1000 cattle. 
1286, 1320 sheep, 472 cattle. 
1310, 5406 sheep, 606 cattle, 120 horses. 
1356, 1689 sheep, 293 cattle. 
1367, 1471 sheep, 338 cattle, 82 horses. 
1372, 2540 sheep, 349 cattle, 80 horses. 
1396, 2361 sheep, 330 cattle, 87 horses. 


As in the case of the other Cistercian houses, Meaux 
carried on a great trade in wool. From its store more 
than once came heavy contributions towards the exac 
tions of the Crown or the Papacy. But the community 
also did a considerable trade in corn-milling, not only 
grinding for the use of the house, but for folk resident 
in the neighbourhood of the abbey. There were several 
mills on the estates, and at one time the number of 
persons employed, outside the conversi, must have been 
considerable. Then, also, at Waghen, now Wawne, a 
village south-east of Beverley, the community had a 
cloth-mill, whereat clothing was made from wool pro 
duced on the conventual estates. And at Brantingham, 
near Brough, on the southern extremity of the Wolds, 
it possessed a valuable stone-quarry, given about the 
end of the twelfth century by Osmund of Kent : he 
supplemented his gift by a right of way to the Humber, 
whence the stone was brought by way of the River 
Hull and the Eschedyke to Meaux. Much of the 
cloistral buildings and the church was built of this 
stone, but it was also sold by the abbots to those of 
the monastic tenants who built on the estates, or 
improved the buildings already in existence. 



Yet in spite of rich possessions in land, in flocks and 
herds, grain and stone, in spite of the bargain with 
Edward I, which gave the King the manor of Myton 
and the vill of Wyk (now the great city of Kingston- 
upon-Hull) in exchange for more valuable properties 
(more valuable at that time, at any rate), Meaux was 
always in debt and difficulty. The Papal exactions 
were bad ; the Royal exactions were worse ; constantly, 
in spite of its holdings of corn and wool, the community 
had no money. More than once its members were 
dispersed, only to come together again, and to begin 
afresh the struggle which must needs result when either 
individuals or corporations spend more than they receive. 
For in that failure to keep a strict hand on the purse- 
strings in the matter of outlay lay the secret of the 
troubles of Meaux. The original idea of austerity and 
simplicity was being rapidly forgotten ; rich ornament 
and profuseness of decoration was being introduced in 
church and cloister : one abbot in particular, of whom 
we shall hear more, was particularly unmindful of the 
precepts of the apostles of Citeaux and Clairvaux. But 
there was another cause of difficulty and of shortness 
of money the usual cause. Meaux was perpetually 
vexed and harassed with lawsuits : once, on a famous 
occasion, it resorted to the practice, then existent, of 
the Judicial Duel, in a dispute originally between the 
abbot and William Lasceles, and subsequently between 
the community of Meaux and the Benedictine house of 
St. Mary at York, over the fishing rights of the meres 
of Hornsea and Wassand, the appointed champions 
(hired fighters) meeting at York, and waging desperate 
combat until the Justices put an end to their foolish 
ness. But fighting, as Mr. Earle remarks of this affair, 
was then the spirit of the age : one cannot help wonder 
ing, however, what Stephen Harding would have said 
of his followers setting on a hired gladiator to vindicate 


Bladdesworth and Joan, his wife, complained that John, 
Abbot of Roche, Brother Stephen de Staynton, Brother 
Richard de Weteweng, Peter de Lund and Alice, his 
wife, and John, son of Nicholas, son of Reginald de 
Barneby, had unjustly disseised them of a toft, fourteen 
acres of land, and three acres of meadow in Barneby 
on Dun. The abbot said that Richard, Joan s father, 
held the land of him in villainage, and after Richard s 
death, Alice, his daughter, Joan s sister, held it in 
villainage, and that Alice afterwards fled the country, 
and that Roger and Joan wished to enter, claiming the 
fee as Joan s free tenement, which he, the abbot, would 
not permit. The plaintiffs said that Alice died seised 
of the property, and that Joan succeeded as sister and 
heir, and was in possession until the defendants disseised 
her. The jury (says Mr. W. P. Baildon, who gives this 
case in Monastic Notes) found for the plaintiffs, with 
30^. damages, but as against Peter de Lund and his 
wife for the defendants. 

30. MEAUX. 

Of all the eight Cistercian houses of Yorkshire, Meaux 
appears to have had more difficulty and trouble arising 
from possession of land and property than any other. 
The documents relating to it are not good to read if 
one bears in mind the original ideas of the founders of 
the Cistercian Order. It cannot have been within the 
great and magnificent scheme of Stephen Harding and 
Bernard of Clairvaux that their followers were to spend 
so much time in either acquiring the goods of this world, 
or, having secured them, in fighting so strenuously to 
pocket them, not to speak of attempting to gain more. 
But so it was in many instances, and notably in that 
of this East Riding house. " The chronicles of the 
religious house of Meaux," writes Mr. Earle, who made 
an exhaustive study of the various documents, " are 
an account of the acquiring of property, and the struggle 
to keep it or increase it : and their abbots and monks 


are the most highly esteemed who are able best to guide\ 
successfully the temporal affairs of the house. There / 
is no religious spirit pervading the chronicles, however \ 
much there may have been in the actual house itself ; 
there are no elevating thoughts. The reading of them 
leaves one with the unsatisfying feeling that the interests 
of St. Mary lay not in the souls of mankind, but in 
ox-gangs and wool and mills." This remark may, with 
all truth, be applied to the records of every one of the 
Cistercian houses of Yorkshire after the first enthu 
siasm for reform and for austerity had passed : the 
flame of the newly lighted candle had burned brightly 
and refreshingly for a time, but strict adherence to the 
plain facts of history compels one to say that the time 
was limited. 


According to the Cbronua Monasterii de Melsa, edited 
by Mr. E. A. Bond for the Rolls Series, the abbot and 
monks of Meaux possessed landed properties in well 
over one hundred different places, most of them in the 
immediate neighbourhood of the abbey, or in the adjacent 
East Riding In Holderness, and at the foot of the 
Wolds, and in the country lying between Beverley and 
Driffield, there are many places to this day called 
Grange these, of course, were the monastic granges on 
the outlying lands. Eventually, the abbots of Meaux 
farmed out a great deal of their land, and thus became 
considerable landlords, possibly the most important 
landlords of the district. But a great portion of the 
communal property was retained and farmed by the 
brotherhood. For a long period Holderness has been 
famous for sheep-breeding, wheat-growing, and horse- 
rearing ; it is probable that the Cistercians of Meaux 
were the original pioneers in these three branches of 
agriculture. They certainly produced a great deal of 
wool, grew a great quantity of corn, and invariably 
possessed a goodly stock of horses. Mr. Earle, in his 


Essays upon the History of Meaux Abbey, gives a tabu 
lated account of the community s possessions in these 
matters between the years 1280 and 1396. This shows 
that the house owned : 

In 1280, 11,000 sheep, 1000 cattle. 
1286, 1320 sheep, 472 cattle. 
1310, 5406 sheep, 606 cattle, 120 horses. 
1356, 1689 sheep, 293 cattle. 
1367, 1471 sheep, 338 cattle, 82 horses. 
1372, 2540 sheep, 349 cattle, 80 horses. 
1396, 2361 sheep, 330 cattle, 87 horses. 


As in the case of the other Cistercian houses, Meaux 
carried on a great trade in wool. From its store more 
than once came heavy contributions towards the exac 
tions of the Crown or the Papacy. But the community 
also did a considerable trade in corn-milling, not only 
grinding for the use of the house, but for folk resident 
in the neighbourhood of the abbey. There were several 
mills on the estates, and at one time the number of 
persons employed, outside the conversi, must have been 
considerable. Then, also, at Waghen, now Wawne, a 
village south-east of Beverley, the community had a 
cloth-mill, whereat clothing was made from wool pro 
duced on the conventual estates. And at Brantingham, 
near Brough, on the southern extremity of the Wolds, 
it possessed a valuable stone-quarry, given about the 
end of the twelfth century by Osmund of Kent : he 
supplemented his gift by a right of way to the Humber, 
whence the stone was brought by way of the River 
Hull and the Eschedyke to Meaux. Much of the 
cloistral buildings and the church was built of this 
stone, but it was also sold by the abbots to those of 
the monastic tenants who built on the estates, or 
improved the buildings already in existence. 



Yet in spite of rich possessions in land, in flocks and 
herds, grain and stone, in spite of the bargain with 
Edward I, which gave the King the manor of Myton 
and the vill of Wyk (now the great city of Kingston- 
upon-Hull) in exchange for more valuable properties 
(more valuable at that time, at any rate), Meaux was 
always in debt and difficulty. The Papal exactions 
were bad ; the Royal exactions were worse ; constantly, 
in spite of its holdings of corn and wool, the community 
had no money. More than once its members were 
dispersed, only to come together again, and to begin 
afresh the struggle which must needs result when either 
individuals or corporations spend more than they receive. 
For in that failure to keep a strict hand on the purse- 
strings in the matter of outlay lay the secret of the 
troubles of Meaux. The original idea of austerity and 
simplicity was being rapidly forgotten ; rich ornament 
and profuseness of decoration was being introduced in 
church and cloister : one abbot in particular, of whom 
we shall hear more, was particularly unmindful of the 
precepts of the apostles of Citeaux and Clairvaux. But 
there was another cause of difficulty and of shortness 
of money the usual cause. Meaux was perpetually 
vexed and harassed with lawsuits : once, on a famous 
occasion, it resorted to the practice, then existent, of 
the Judicial Duel, in a dispute originally between the 
abbot and William Lasceles, and subsequently between 
the community of Meaux and the Benedictine house of 
St. Mary at York, over the fishing rights of the meres 
of Hornsea and Wassand, the appointed champions 
(hired fighters) meeting at York, and waging desperate 
combat until the Justices put an end to their foolish 
ness. But fighting, as Mr. Earle remarks of this affair, 
was then the spirit of the age : one cannot help wonder 
ing, however, what Stephen Harding would have said 
of his followers setting on a hired gladiator to vindicate 


their rights to take a few fish. But most of the fight 
ing was done in the law courts. The chronicles are 
full of matters in dispute about land and property : 
Mr. Baildon in his Monastic Notes cites thirty-two 
typical cases in which Meaux was concerned, all of the 
usual nature, many of them extending over considerable 
periods. And on that last point Mr. Earle has a word 
to say which should not be forgotten when one con 
siders all the facts of monastic litigation a word as 
to the bribery and corruption which, without doubt, 
existed in those days in very considerable extent. " The 
Abbot of Meaux, the Provost of Beverley, the knights 
and nobles," he remarks, " knew well, when they engaged 
with one another in legal warfare, that it was always at 
great expense, and whether the courts were civil or 
spiritual, in England or at Rome, there were palms 
that had to be crossed, and hands that had to dip deep 
in deep pockets to do it, before any prospect of a favour 
able settlement of a suit could be imagined." 


What, when the eight Cistercian houses of Yorkshire 
had become fully established, when their churches and 
cloisters were all completely built, when the tide of 
benefaction in land and property had reached high- 
water mark, when, say, two hundred years had passed 
since the first coming of William and his brethren from 
Clairvaux to Rievaulx, was the sum total of the wealth 
of the Order in the county ? It is a difficult question 
to answer ; perhaps it is impossible now to ever give 
a really accurate answer to it. But we can get some 
approximate idea. From about 1400 onward the inflow 
of benefactions ceased ; certainly after 1450, at the very 
latest, the Cistercians gained no new property worth 
mentioning : by that year, indeed, their wealth was 
decreasing rather than increasing. Nevertheless, right 
up to the period of the Dissolution, this much is certain : 
Rievaulx possessed great properties in the North Rid- 


ing ; Fountains owned an enormous tract in the West ; 
Byland had great estates south of the Howardian and 
Cleveland Hills ; Jervaulx owned considerable parts of 
the Dales ; Kirkstall was virtually the most considerable 
landowner in the Leeds neighbourhood and in Airedale ; 
Roche was in possession of rich properties in the south 
east corner ; Meaux had a very large holding in East 
Yorkshire ; Salley, on the Lancashire borders ; each 
house possessed lands far away from its own neighbour 
hood. Though they may have been faultily calculated, 
we have official statements as to what each house was 
worth, annually, at the Dissolution : Rievaulx, 278 ; 
Fountains, 1000 ; Byland, 238 ; Jervaulx, 234 ; 
Kirkstall, 512; Roche, .224; Meaux, 298; Salley, 
.147. This, roughly, means 3000 a year amongst the 
eight houses. What was the value of money in, say, 
the reign of Henry VII in relation to its value in, say, 
the reign of Edward VII. Ten is much too low a figure ; 
twenty is too high ; the more reasonable figure is fifteen. 
Reckoning that money was worth just fifteen times as 
much in the year 1500 as in the year 1905, the annual 
value of the eight Cistercian houses in Yorkshire for 
some considerable period before the Dissolution was at 
least 45,000. As to the capital value of their posses 
sions, in and out of their own neighbourhoods, it is 
making a very modest estimate indeed to affirm that 
it cannot have been less than, at the very least, 1,100,000 
of our money at our money s value of ten years ago. 



IT must be obvious that eight corporate bodies, severally 
and conjointly possessing such wealth as that which had 
accrued to the eight Cistercian houses of Yorkshire 
within a hundred years of their foundation, must needs 
have exercised power of considerable magnitude, not 
only in their own immediate neighbourhoods, but in the 
county as a whole. Beginning as small, isolated, obscure 
communities of men, banded together at first for merely 
religious purposes, the eight convents rapidly became 
centres of influence which was exerted in other matters 
than those of the original conception. In spite of the 
fact that the Benedictines had been first in the field in 
Yorkshire, and that the great houses of Whitby, Selby, 
and York ranked high in the English Benedictine roll, 
the Cistercians by the thirteenth century had become 
the paramount monastic power in the three Ridings. 
Their power was exerted in four different directions 
political, economic, social, and ecclesiastical : the last 
quite distinct from the influence in religion. The politi 
cal power was exerted through the abbots, many of 
whom were from time to time summoned to Parliament 
as members of the House of Lords ; the economic, 
through the trading affairs in which the Order engaged 
so extensively ; the social, through the influence of the 
monks on men and manners ; the ecclesiastical, through 
the possession of benefices and advowsons. It is almost 
impossible after the lapse of at least four centuries to 


POWER 137 

make a full estimate of the power exercised in these 
directions, but a mere outline of its network suffices to 
show how great it must have been, and what an influence 
it must have had on the life of the later Middle Age in 
a county which was even then sparsely populated, 
wherein the old power of the Baronage was either dead 
or dying, and to whose folk the centre of government 
London was very far off. 


At what precise date the Cistercian abbots of York 
shire began to be summoned to Parliament it is difficult 
to make out from the various chartularies and documents 
relating to their houses. But when the Parliament 
commonly known as that of Simon de Montfort was 
summoned, as a result of the defeat of the Royal army 
at Lewes in 1264, to meet at Westminster in January 
1265, a considerable number of the Northern clergy were 
served with writs the Archbishop of York, the Bishops 
of Durham and Carlisle, ten abbots, and nine priors : 
by a subsequent writ of summons, fifty-five abbots and 
twency-six priors were called up from various English 
monasteries. One of these was Walter, Abbot of Roche : 
the other principal Cistercian abbots of Yorkshire were 
doubtless summoned on the same occasion. There are 
several records of writs issued to the abbots of Roche. 
Abbot John was summoned to the Parliament of Lincoln 
in 1300, but died before it assembled : the writ was 
duly answered by his successor, Abbot Robert, who 
subsequently sat in the Parliaments of Westminster, and 
in the famous Parliament of Carlisle, held in 1307, 
whereat was passed the statute which forbade the send 
ing of any religious tax out of the country : it was at 
this Parliament, too, that the houses of Jervaulx, 
Byland, Roche, and Fountains obtained the King s 
letters patent for the use of a common seal. This 
Abbot of Roche also attended the Parliament in which 
Piers Gaveston was banished the kingdom. That the 


more important abbots, like those of Jervaulx and Kirk- 
stall, were similarly summoned seems certain ; those of 
Fountains are known to have repaired to Parliament 
regularly: Walbran gives a lengthy list of their writs 
of summons. But from the beginning of the fourteenth 
century the heads of the various monastic communities 
began to feel the strain and expense of Parliamentary 
attendance too much for their resources, and too great 
a tax on their time. According to Stubbs, the really 
permanent spiritual element in the House of Lords was 
found in the two archbishops and the eighteen bishops ; 
the abbots and priors more and more showed disinclina 
tion to attend, and were satisfied with their position in 
the synods of their respective provinces. By proving 
themselves tenants in barony under the Crown they 
endeavoured to relieve themselves of the burden of 
peerage. Stubbs mentions several deeds of renuncia 
tion : Northampton Abbey, 1318 ; Bridlington Priory, 
1325; Osney Abbey, 1350; Leicester Abbey, 1351. 
This process, he says, had probably been going on for 
some time before it was heard of. The diminution of 
the number of abbots and priors in Parliament becomes 
more marked from the time of Edward I onwards. In 
1295, sixty-seven abbots and priors were summoned ; 
in 1300, seventy-two ; in 1302, forty-four ; in 1307, 
forty-eight. Under Edward II the number varied 
between forty and sixty ; under Edward III, with the 
exception of one year, 1332, when fifty-eight were 
summoned, the average number became twenty-seven. 
Stubbs gives the year 1341 as the point of permanent 
diminution. The list of those present at the last Parlia 
ment of Henry VI shows that no Cistercian abbots or 
Cluniac and Premonstratensian priors were present. The 
list of Parliamentary abbots and priors summoned in 
1483 comprises twenty-seven names of religious houses 
represented by their heads ; the only two Yorkshire 
houses were the Benedictine abbeys of Selby and York. 
Therefore, the eight Cistercian abbots in Yorkshire had 

POWER 139 

been freed of their Parliamentary duties by this time, 
and probably for some considerable time previously. 


But though the dignity of a peer of Parliament was 
only his for a limited period during the four centuries 
in which the Cistercian Order existed in Yorkshire, the 
Yorkshire Cistercian abbot was a very great and impor 
tant personage. He was a great local magnate, ranking 
with earl and baron in degree. He was a great man 
in synod and in convocation. He was a great man in 
the commission of the peace. If he did not go a-warring 
himself and we know very well that he sometimes did 
he had to find fighting-men for the muster-rolls. He 
was, of course, a great and powerful landlord ; he was 
also, whether in person or by deputy, a great business 
man, buying and selling. He was always dealing with 
lawyers, merchants, tradesmen, craftsmen. He was 
counsellor and adviser : folk carried their troubles to 
him. In many respects he was the forerunner of the 
country gentleman whom Addison subsequently drew 
for us in Sir Roger de Coverley. Perhaps he was never 
meant to be any of these things by the Stephen Hardings 
and Bernards of the twelfth century, but he had certainly 
become all of them by the fourteenth. And as he waxed 
in importance and grandeur and state, so he changed 
his own personal mode and method of life. He no 
longer slept in the dorter with the rest of the brethren ; 
one shrewdly suspects that it was only at times that he 
sat at the head of the tables in the f rater. The Abbot s 
Lodging sprang into existence ; what it was, as regards 
extent, provision, and comfort, we may learn, in some 
degree, from the ruins of Fountains. Certainly, they 
were but three in number, these Fountains rooms, first 
adapted in the fourteenth century, and subsequently 
enlarged by Abbot Marmaduke Huby, but they are 
significant as marking the departure from what was 
laid down in the Consuetudines in dormitorio jacere. 


The abbot slept no longer in the dormitory he was 
lodged apart. And he began to have his own servants 
and his own retinue ; the number of servants increased 
as years went on, and the retinue became as fine as an 
earl s or a bishop s. Perhaps the Puritan instincts 
and characteristics of the Cistercians never wholly dying 
out the Cistercian abbot was never so magnificent a 
figure as that Augustinian Prior of Bolton who went 
about at the head of a splendid cavalcade, distributing 
rich gifts wherever he passed, but he was still a very 
important and lordly one, and now and then he stands 
out from the chronicles in a way which compels open- 
mouthed attention. 


There was, for example, William de Scarborough, 
twenty-first Abbot of Meaux, who ruled the house from 
1372 to 1394. His magnificence tended towards carry 
ing his Cistercian community clean away from the old 
austerities of ritual, vestment, and decoration. We 
have already seen how the framers of the constitution 
rigidly provided against the use of ecclesiastical millinery; 
how firm they were about mere linen vestments, simple 
things, one candle only on the altar, no pictures, no 
painted glass, no mural decoration, no gold vessels 
no undue ceremony or ritualism of any kind. William 
de Scarborough, abbot though he was, apparently con 
sidered that Puritanism in religion and in ceremony had 
had its day. He caused to be made three pastoral 
staffs one was a cross of pure gold ; another was 
covered with silver-plate ; a third was of solid gold. 
He furnished the high altar with silver-gilt chalice, ewer, 
aspergillum, thurible, and flagons ; we hear of vestments 
ornamented with gold, of copes, white and black ; of 
canopies set over the altars ; of sculptured marble and 
painted woodwork ; of images set up in the church ; 
of new bells, one of great weight. All this was strictly 
forbidden by the original Cistercian rule ; Abbot William 

POWER 141 

de Scarborough, doubtless remarked that he knew it, 
and added dryly, " Other times other manners." For 
bidden, too, by those strict reformers, the early fathers 
of Citeaux and Clairvaux, would have been the splendid 
paintings by Brother John of Ulrome, which made the 
walls of Meaux the wonder of the simple country-folk, 
but no abbot stayed Brother John s brush. 


Then there was Osmund, fifth Abbot of Roche, 1184- 
1223, a very notable man, who had been Cellarer of 
Fountains, and had doubtless highly distinguished him 
self in that important office. He was a monk of great 
activity and much ambition, and it was under his 
abbatial rule that Roche became powerful and rich. He 
it was who obtained from Pope Urban III the charter 
which confirmed to Roche its worldly goods and pos 
sessions. The wording is clear and precise, showing 
how the Pope claimed sovereignty over things to come 
as well as things accomplished. " Whatever possessions 
and goods the said monastery possesses at present, or 
in future, by the grant of pontiffs, largess of longs or 
princes, offering of the faithful or in any other just 
modes by the help of the Lord it may obtain [let them] 
remain firm and entire to you and your successors, 
according to the very words in which we have thought 
right that these things should be expressed." The Papal 
charter then specifies the twenty great possessions in 
land and property, and exempts Roche for ever from 
the payment of tithe to any man. It was no mean 
political achievement (for the matter was, of course, 
a purely political one) on Abbot Osmund s part to obtain 
this charter. But he quickly did more for his house. 
His predecessor, Abbot Hugh de Wadworth, had in 
his time borrowed the great sum of 1300 marks from the 
Jew money-lenders of York (the Cistercian abbots, like 
many other Christians of those days, were by no means 
averse to borrowing from the Jews), which sum (Hugh 


having omitted to pay it) Osmund found it inconvenient 
to make good, wherefore he presently obtained from 
King Richard a remission of the whole amount, and 
the Jews who had lent it lost their principal and interest. 
From King Richard, too, Osmund obtained a charter 
which allowed the abbots of Roche to hold a court of 
their own in which they might try such offenders as 
thieves and trespassers : its powers extended to " all 
their tenements and men with soke and sac and toll 
and theam and infangthef." Moreover, he got from 
Alice, Countess of Eu, being " in my widowhood and 
in full power over my own body," a charter which 
further established Roche in some of its near-lying lands 
in the barony of Tickhill, Osmund knowing full well 
that if a monastic body wanted to be firmly set in its 
place there was nothing like having a chestful of deeds 
and charters, whether from popes, kings, or countesses. 


A typical example of the great medieval abbot is 
found in Ralph Haget, ninth Abbot of Fountains, who 
ruled from 1190 to 1203, at a period when the first 
enthusiasm was not yet dead, nor the later decline to 
worldliness fully set in. He came of a Yorkshire family 
whose name occurs frequently in the Fountains Chartu- 
lary as benefactors of the Order. In his youth he was 
a soldier, but he had leanings towards the life of the 
cloister, and by the advice of one Sinnulph, a lay-brother 
of Fountains, he joined the brotherhood, and in 1182 
became second Abbot of Kirkstall, whence, eight years 
later, he returned, to preside over the brotherhood of 
Fountains. Hugo the chronicler has much to tell of 
him as " a man worthy of all praise, a mirror of religion, 
a flower of the Order, a pattern of discipline. His 
memory is a compound of sweet odours, the work of 
that unguent-maker who in a fragile vessel of flesh 
heaped together so many unguents of virtue. He was 
once a soldier in the world, and did not loose the girdle 

POWER 143 

of his soldier-life, but changed it for a better. . . . He 
then took the oath of a new service, and how he laboured 
for the perfection of purity those know who had the 
honour of being his comrades at the time of his proba 
tion. No one was more prompt, more humble, more 
zealous in the observance of the way of salvation. He 
performed with the greatest eagerness all the rules of 
the Order, was fervent in the work of God, frequent in 
prayer, patient of abuse, most obedient to commands, 
always cheerful and eager for works of charity. From 
the first days of his conversion he possessed the spirit 
of goodness and a certain flavour of inward sweetness 
in the wonderful pleasantness of which he was steeped, 
and easily freed himself from all worldly delights. . . . 
While he was under arms he had ceased to study, but 
now made up for lost time by the assiduity of his read 
ing ; yet it was in the book of experience that he read 
what others worked at in the libraries." Clearly an 
abbot who would have won the heart of the first founders 
of the Order, this Ralph Haget, even when we have 
made some allowance for the monk-chronicler s pride 
in him. 


Of a much later Abbot of Fountains, the thirty-fifth 
from the foundation, Thomas Swynton, 1471-78, there 
is an exceedingly interesting account in Walbran s 
Memorials of Fountains Abbey. He was, thinks Walbran, 
advanced to the abbacy in recognition of the ability and 
diligence which he had displayed in transacting the 
secular business of the house : he appears to have had 
great experience in this, judging from one of his account- 
books, treasured at Ripley Castle. " He seems," says 
Walbran, " to have shunned no kind or amount of toil 
for the benefit of his convent. Sometimes we find him 
riding to Scarborough, or to Hull, to purchase household 
stores, then disposing of a portion among their tenants 
in Nidderdale, and elsewhere, and collecting the money 


before a similar expedition. Sometimes lie is in Craven, 
viewing the improvement of the herds, or overlooking 
the washing and the shearing of the sheep. Again 
when a scene may be imagined in the abbey yard not 
very consistent with our ideas of monastic comfort and 
seclusion we can picture him among the newly arrived 
cattle from Cumberland, alloting them in payment of 
debts and wages, and shrewd on points of condition. 
Then, in the castles of the nobles, suing for grace and 
favour, and anon supporting the litigated claims of the 
abbey in courts of law, or instructing counsel with facts, 
or comforting them with wine ; or riding with the abbot 
in his journeys of State, and drawing a few shillings from 
his well-worn purse when that of the great dignitary 
was exhausted. Sometimes, too, perhaps, he drove a 
little bargain on his own account ; and as he ploughed 
his weary way up the trench-like roads, stray thoughts 
might cross his orisons of that golden hoard out of 
which he could relieve the perplexity of the bursar. In 
one year he lent to him .30 9.?. zd., a considerable sum 
in the money of that day." " A very graphic picture 
of one of his campaigns," continues Walbran, " is sug 
gested by payments in his notebook in the year 1455. 
The convent was seldom out of litigation, and at that 
time had an abundance of it on their hands. On one 
day, we find Swinton going to the court at Ripon . . . 
on another day to York . . . twice he and his brother 
[monk] Whixley were called to Ripon ... at the time 
of the assizes at York, on March 12, Swinton and Whixley 
found themselves obliged to appear and to remain there 
for five days. We are not told whether they sojourned 
in an inn. . . . On the first day [the season was Lent] 
they were content to dine on fish alone, though perhaps 
of different sorts. . . . They paid 18^. for their repast 
more than the price of a sheep. On the second day 
they were joined by ... other persons, and dined on 
fish again, with the condiments of salt and mustard, at 
the charge of i6d. . . . Next day the fish was sup- 

POWER 145 

plemented by figs, raisins, and spices ... for which 
they paid 2s. id. On the fourth day they returned to 
fish with salt and mustard cost 19^. ... On the last 
day, when William Dawtre and other company sat at 
their board, they regaled them, after the inevitable fish, 
with spices, figs, and raisins, costing ij^d. For the 
table bread and horse bread [for five days] they paid 
*$s. 2d" As to drink, shared with friends, they spent 
" In Vino xij^." This Abbot of Fountains was in the 
year of his election, in company with William, Abbot 
of Jervaulx, made a brother of the famous Corpus 
Christi Guild at York. 


As one estate after another fell into the hands of the 
communities by grant and gift, the abbot became lord 
of the manor, not in merely one the estate surrounding 
his convent but in many places. In each he was, of 
course, represented by his bailiff. Through the bailiff 
his power over the people was great. The system of 
villainage existed for a long time after the Cistercians 
came to Yorkshire : the various chartularies show that 
if the practice of selling villains was not at all common 
amongst monastic owners, the custom of letting them 
out on hire was well known. It is difficult for us of 
this day to conceive the exact position of the medieval 
lord of the manor towards his natives of the villain and 
cotter class. But they were his serfs, slaves, bonds 
men. He had the right to keep them to the manor on 
which they had been born ; he had the right to their 
labour ; his was the voice which decided the whole 
ordering of their lives. If the villain wished to give 
his daughter in marriage, he must get the lord s consent, 
and pay mercbet, a fine : the same custom existed some 
times in respect of a son. Then there were fines to be 
paid if the villain wished to educate a son for the Church, 
or if he sold horse or ox, or took over land ; when he 
died, the lord could claim his best beast as a keriot. 



Very often the lord exercised the right of wardship over 
the land belonging to a peasant owner who was as yet 
a minor. Numerous instances affecting such wardship 
occur in the various Yorkshire Cistercian chartularies : 
many others, in which it was made the subject of legal 
process, occur in the court rolls. Consequently, where 
an abbot, as in the case of the great landowning com 
munities like Fountains and Kirkstall, was lord of the 
manor in many places, he exercised a vast amount of 
power over a great many people. But it is generally 
agreed amongst those who have gone deeply into this 
matter that as lords of the manor the Churchmen, and 
especially the heads of the monastic Orders, were well 
disposed, considerate, and kindly towards their people. 
Yet it is not to be overlooked that the entire system 
was one of slavery modified, no doubt, yet still slavery ; 
that Christianity and slavery are not compatible ; and 
that when Parliament met to consider the proposals 
made by the. leaders of the Peasants Revolt of 1381, 
the Churchmen, represented by bishops, abbots, and 
priors, joined in declaring that bondsmen were " the 
goods and chattels of the lords of the manors," and 
must remain so. But there is no necessity to consider 
these fourteenth-century Churchmen unenlightened, for 
we continued, as a people, to traffic in human flesh for 
a good three hundred years after they were dead and 
gone, and, in a different and much more shameful 
direction, we still do so. 


This brings us to a consideration of what the Cister 
cians really were as landlords ; what economic position 
was really theirs in relation to the land of which they 
possessed such vast areas. Various writers, of varying 
degrees of authority, have said much on the point of 
monastic ownership of property, and of the attitude of 
monastic owners to monastic tenants. What has been 
written in this way has usually been more or less coloured 

POWER 147 

by partisanship. The school represented by Burnet and 
Froude has invariably depreciated anything done by 
the monastic communities ; that represented in modern 
times by Gasquet and Jessopp has gone though in a 
modified fashion to the other extreme. Gasquet would 
have us believe that the monasteries remained to the 
end more or less of what they had been in their early 
days a conclusion certainly not warranted by historic 
fact : Jessopp, as a rule, implies that if they were not 
all they might have been, there was very little fault to 
find with them. Writers of the antiquarian school are 
almost invariably on the side of Gasquet and Jessopp. 
Hallam, in his Constitutional History of England, points 
out in a foot-note to his chapter on the Reformation 
that " the whole class of antiquaries, Wood, Hearne, 
Drake, Browne Willis, et cetera, are, with hardly an excep 
tion, partial to the religious Orders." Accurate estima 
tion of the true position of the monks as landlords may, 
perhaps, be got from modern writers who have carefully 
studied the question from the purely economic stand 
point. Thorold Rogers says the monastic landlords 
were " fairly indulgent." Mr. Fordham, in his Short 
History of English Rural Life, says, " The disappearance 
of the monasteries was a blow to agriculture, for some 
at least of the monks were good farmers, collecting 
information both at home and abroad, and constantly 
making experiments with seeds introduced from other 
countries ; whilst their successors were, to quote Sir 
Thomas More, covetous and insatiable cormorants, 5 
who knew little about agriculture." " Amid all the 
confusion of civil war," writes Mrs. Green, " the in 
dustrial activities of the country had developed with 
a bewildering rapidity ; while knights and barons led 
their foreign hirelings to mutual slaughter, monks and 
canons were raising their religious houses in all the 
waste places of the land, and silently laying the founda 
tions of English enterprise and English commerce. To 
the great body of the Benedictines and the Cluniacs 


were added in the middle of the twelfth century the 
Cistercians who founded their houses among the desolate 
moorlands of Yorkshire, in solitary places which had 
known no inhabitants since the Conqueror s ravages, 
or among the swamps of Lincolnshire." If the last 
opinion means anything it means that it was a truly 
excellent thing for the land that the monks came upon 
it, and that they were, accordingly, good landlords in 
the sense of being landlords who did their duty by their 
estates. Yet a modern historian who has had access 
to documentary evidence of the fullest sort, Mr. C. R. L. 
Fletcher, is not inclined to this opinion. " It is obvious," 
he writes in his Introductory History, " that in the hands 
of the monks it [the monastic wealth] was producing 
far too little. The monks were not easy landlords, nor 
popular landlords : far from it. They were financially 
in a very bad condition, and quite unfit to enter the 
lists in the race for wealth which had begun since the 
great development of wool-growing ; many convents 
were, in fact, bankrupt." 


What, however, was the contemporary opinion ? 
which is, at any rate, worthy of consideration. There 
was, of course, a considerable amount of partisanship 
in the testimony of Robert Aske, as given in his evidence 
in the proceedings which followed upon the Pilgrimage 
of Grace : nevertheless, Aske was a clever man, a great 
man, a trained lawyer, not self-seeking, but full of noble 
ambition, who, when he gave his evidence, evidently 
did so with a full knowledge of what he was talking 
about. As a Yorkshifeman he was thoroughly con 
versant with the state of affairs in the North of England, 
and especially in his own county and in Lincolnshire, 
for he and his family had always been in touch with 
the landed interest and the agricultural communities. 
His evidence is wholly in favour of the monks as land 
lords ; he lays stress on the way in which they treated 

POWER 149 

their tenants. " Many their tenants," he said, " whether 
feod [leasehold] servants to them or serving men were 
well succoured by abbeys. And now not only these 
tenants and servants want refreshing there both of meat, 
cloth, and wages, and know not now where to have 
any living, but also strangers and baggers of corn . . . 
the said statute of suppression was greatly to the decay 
of the commonwealth of that country." He mentioned 
another matter which comes within the question of good 
landlordship. " Such abbeys as were near the danger 
of sea-banks," he said, " were great maintainers of sea 
walls and dykes, maintainers and builders of bridges and 
highways and other such things for the commonwealth." 
As to popular opinion in Yorkshire at the time of the 
Suppression, there is abundant evidence that the Cis 
tercians were then, and long had been, highly in favour 
with the people. Ellis prints in his Original Letters a 
highly illuminative contemporary account of the sack 
and pillage of Roche, the writer of which shows how 
the country-folk resented the outrage, and he remarks 
of it that the extracts which he gives " probably exhibit 
what was at that time the genuine as well as general 
feeling of the English public." Henry Jenkins, the 
Yorkshireman who lived to a truly wondrous age, and 
well remembered the last Abbot of Fountains, was 
accustomed to tell of the events which he witnessed 
with his own eyes : " The country was all in a tumult, 
and there was great lamentation amongst the people 
when the monks were turned out." The houses to which 
he referred were, of course, the Cistercian abbeys of 


The real truth as to the landlordship of the monks, 
and especially of the Cistercian Order, seems to lie 
between the opinions of the two opposing schools. 
Taking all the available evidence into account, there 
seems to be no doubt whatever that the folk who lived 


on the monastic estates were kindly, considerately, and 
humanely treated far more so than the tenants and 
dependents of the barons had ever been. Poverty and 
actual want appears to have been unknown. The people 
evidently turned to the monks as to tried and trusted 
friends : the monastic landlord without doubt merited 
the epithet so generally bestowed on him by historians 
he was " indulgent." But was he a good landlord from 
the economic, the purely utilitarian point of view to 
be plain, would it have been a good thing for England 
if the monastic corporations had been allowed to retain 
the land, of which, according to the most recent calcula 
tions, they held at least one-fifteenth of the area of the 
whole country ? The answer to that must be in the 
negative. The truth is that they became lax in business 
as they became lax in the observance of rule, and that 
while they were kindly enough to their tenants, they 
were letting these tenants have land at far too little 
rent ; in other words, they were not getting out of their 
land anything like the values they should have got out 
of it. As producers they were behindhand. 

12. SHEEP. 

The monastic Orders, in this respect, were at their 
best when they were their own farmers. We are already 
familiar with Fuller s remark that the Cistercians were 
better farmers than monks. To them English agricul 
ture owes a great deal. They cleared wastes. The 
original surroundings of Fountains and Rievaulx, Byland 
and Kirkstall, were desert-like. Meadow appeared in 
place of moorland ; arable land replaced the heath and 
gorse-encumbered uplands. They planted woods and 
coppices ; they directed water-courses .; they made 
bridges and roads. They introduced new methods and 
new seed : the monk, travelling into France or Italy, 
kept his eyes and ears open during his foreign wander 
ings, and brought back some new idea, some fresh 
knowledge, to add to the common stock. And around 

POWER 151 

the Cistercian house, as time went on, grew up what 
had never been seen in the land before herds of cattle, 
droves of horses, and flocks of sheep. With sheep in 
particular the Cistercian will always be associated. He 
was the first of the great English flock-masters. To 
him more than to any one else was due the trade in 
sheep and wool which was to assume such enormous 
proportions. By the fourteenth century that trade had 
become the principal one of the country. Bright, in his 
History of England, quotes an account preserved in the 
Exchequer of the exports and imports in the year 1354. 
The total value of the exports was .212,338. They 
consisted of 31,651 sacks of wool, at 6 per sack; 65 
wool fells, valued at .89 ; 4774 pieces of cloth ; and 
8061 pieces of worsted stuff. The imports, valued at 
.23,000, were made up of wine, linens, groceries, wax, 
and a little fine cloth. The tax on the exported wool 
came to more than 40 per cent, of its value, thus produc 
ing .81,846. Of this wool, a vast amount must have 
come from the Cistercian abbeys. We know from the 
records that the Order, as a whole, was always being 
asked to pay tribute in the shape of wool, and that the 
Royal and Papal Exchequers were always benefiting 
by the Cistercian trade in sheep. All through the 
various documents, chartularies, coucher books, legal 
records, and the like, which are connected with Cistercian 
history, the sheep, as a wealth-producing animal, figures 
constantly and largely. From Salley on the west of 
Yorkshire to Meaux on the east, the Cistercian properties 
were thick with sheep. 


This trade in sheep became a positive danger to 
agriculture. It forms a striking example of the harm 
that can be done by over-development of a particular 
thing. Sheep-farming became so profitable in England 
that all other branches of agriculture suffered ; and the 
Cistercians, as landowners, were not less blameless than 


other landlords. Readers of More s Utopia, will remem 
ber the pertinent and shrewd remarks made by Raphael 
Hythloday at the table of Cardinal Morton, Archbishop 
of Canterbury, on the evils of this inordinate sheep 
trade. " Your shepe that were wont to be so meke and 
tame, and so smal eaters, now, as I heare saye, be become 
so great devowerers and so wylde, that they eate up, 
and swallow downe the very men themselfes. They 
consume, destroye, and devoure whole fieldes, houses, 
and cities. For looke in what partes of the realme doth 
growe the fynest, and therfore dearest woll, there noble- 
men and gentlemen : yea and certayn Abbottes, holy men 
no doubt, not contenting themselfes with the yearely 
revenues and profytes, that were wont to grow to theyr 
forefathers and predecessors of their landes, nor beynge 
content that they live in rest and pleasure nothinge 
profiting, yea much noyinge the weale publique : leave 
no grounde for tillage, thei inclose al into pastures ; 
thei throw downe houses ; they plucke downe townes, 
and leave nothing standynge, but only the churche to 
be made a shepe-house. And as though you loste no 
small quantity of grounde by forestes, chases, laundes, 
and parkes, those good holy men turne all dwellinge 
places and all glebeland into desolation and wildernes. 
. . . One Shephearde or Heardman is ynoughe to eate 
up that grounde with cattel, to the occupying whereof 
aboute husbandrye manye handes were requisite . . . 
besides this, the price of wolle is so rysen that poor 
folkes, which were wont to worke it, and make cloth 
thereof, be nowe hable to bye none at all." Now when 
More here refers to " certayn Abbottes " he doubtless 
has the Cistercians in mind, for it was matter of common 
knowledge in his day that the Order, because of its 
constant intercourse with foreign countries, had brought 
about great and important improvements in the breed 
ing and rearing of sheep. The trade had reached its 
highest point of prosperity just before his time, and had 
also become such an occasion of danger as to bring 

POWER 153 

about the legislation comprised in the famous Act of 
Henry VIII which, premising that the great occasion 
of the present difficulties in husbandry being " the great 
profit that cometh of sheep," enacted " That no person 
shall have or keep on lands not their own inheritance 
more than two thousand sheep," and that no person 
should henceforth hold more than two farms. 


Of the social status and power of the communities, 
and more particularly of the abbots, we may gain some 
idea from various documents which have happily escaped 
destruction and been preserved amongst the archives 
of old families. That there was considerable intercourse 
between the higher dignitaries and the great folk is 
proved by entries in the accounts of expenses. Thus, 
in a folio volume, written on paper, preserved at Studley, 
containing the bursar s accounts of Fountains Abbey 
during part of the fifteenth century, we find numerous 
entries relating to visits paid by Abbot Greenwell, a- 
very learned man. In 1457 he made a great many 
journeys : his expenses are here set down. To Middle- 
ham Castle, to visit the Bishop of Exeter, 3^. ; to Bishop- 
thorpe, the Archbishop of York s house, I is. $d. ; he 
several times repaired to Topcliffe, to see the Earl of 
Northumberland : the cost of these jaunts is not 
entered, Topcliffe being, as it were, next door. But he 
went much further afield all the way to Woburn in 
Bedfordshire that cost $ 6s. Sd. ; thence to Oxford, 
.1 I js. yd. more ; thence to Meaux, a further .1 8j. 9^. 
Numerous entries occur in connexion with these journeys, 
or about their time, which show what the bursar paid 
out for the great man. His stable-boy had a new russet 
suit, 15^. A book, 3^., and paper, 5^., for the abbot. 
Repairing his harness, 23^. ; medicine for him, 2od. ; 
2 pounds of soap for his use, Sd. ; a pair of gloves, 2d. ; 
a second pair, 40. ; for fetching his staff, id. ; for carry 
ing drink for him to Brimham Grange, 2d. There are 


entries, too, which show that he not only visited great 
folk, but had great folk to visit him. He entertains 
the Duke of York at Swanley Grange ; Dan Henry 
Scruton is paid 2s. 8d. for fresh fish for the Duke. Also, 
the abbot very evidently entertains folk of much less 
degree, sometimes quite forgetting the original Cis 
tercian prohibitions, he welcomes actors and minstrels 
and their like the bursar has to pay them, and so 
their styles and characters become inscribed in the 
account book. A Fool from Byland, 4^. ; William de 
Plumpton s Minstrel, %d. ; the Boy-Bishop of Ripon, 
35. ; a Story-Teller (fabulatot), whose name was unknown, 
6d. ; a Fool called Solomon (who came again), 4^. And 
so on. It is very evident that in many respects the 
social status and tastes of a fifteenth-century Cistercian 
abbot were very much akin to those of the nobility and 
gentry around him. The bursar is regularly buying 
partridges for him 8 d. is the usual sum ; he also buys 
him wine and pears. And once he pays 4^. for the 
furnishing of the great man with a dish of five hundred 


A certain amount of social influence amongst the 
surrounding population was without question exercised 
by the Order through its adoption of the system of 
corrodies, which was nothing less than the system made 
familiar in our times by those insurance companies which 
grant annuities for life on payment of a fixed sum. At 
some period of monastic history, the exact date of which 
is doubtful, some one hit on the notion of granting 
subsistence for life to folk who would give land or money 
in lump, and by the thirteenth century the Yorkshire 
Cistercians had so taken up the practice that most of 
the eight houses had many corrodiers persons who had 
purchased the right of maintenance for life, either within 
the house or without its walls. " Men felt," remarks 
Mr. Earle in his work on Meaux Abbey, " that in the 

POWER 155 

bonds of a convent they held ample security, and 
bought the corrodies which the convents offered for sale 
as the best means of life annuity that they could effect. 
It was convenient also at times to purchase a life annuity 
in this way, say, if a man s tenure of his property was 
doubtful, or he was threatened with an expensive law 
suit, or if his lands were cumbered with heavy charges." 
Certain good examples of corrodies occur in the chronicles 
of Meaux. About 1350 Sir John Cottingham and his 
sister Mabel made over to the abbey certain property 
in exchange for a yearly annuity of .5. This they 
subsequently exchanged for a yearly allowance of ten 
quarters of corn for the duration of two lives, Mabel 
and her sister Elena s : when Elena died, another sister, 
Isabella, was put in her place. About the same time, 
one Thomas de Fishlake, a burgess of Hull, bought a 
substantial corrody from Meaux by paying 60 for it. 
In 1396 Abbot Thomas of Meaux is recorded as having 
sold two corrodies for life one for 6 i$s. 4^., to John 
Pelly ; the other for just 10 more to John Lesset. 
Now and then there was litigation about the corrodies : 
in 1260 (Curia Regis, No. 164, Hil., 44 Hen. Ill, m. 12) 
William, son of Cristian, sues the Abbot of Fountains 
for withdrawing from him the victuals and clothing 
which he was wont to receive and ought to enjoy for 
life by the grant of William, a former abbot. In 1289 
(the case was before the courts until 1293) Anabilia, 
"the recluse of Doncaster," sued Stephen, Abbot of 
Roche, for withdrawing a certain corrody, to wit, five 
monastery loaves and three gallons of monastery ale 
every week which she was entitled to for life by the 
grant of Abbot Walter. There were many reasons why 
these corrodies were granted ; some were given for 
services that had been rendered, some for services, such 
as medical assistance, to be rendered : eventually, from 
a social point of view, they became a danger to the 
various houses, and, as we shall see, they contributed 
not a little to their ultimate decline and fall. 



Somewhat akin to the corrody system, inasmuch as 
it afforded sustenance and shelter, was that of sanctuary. 
From the sixth century onwards sanctuary had existed 
in England ; it may perhaps have been in practice still 
earlier. But ^thelbert, King of Kent, formally recog 
nized it in his the earliest-known Anglo-Saxon code 
of laws. In that code it takes first place ; the violation 
of Church frith is to be counted twice as serious as the 
breaking of the King s peace. About a hundred years 
later, Ino, King of Wessex, made similar provision in 
his code. " If any man be guilty of death, and he flew 
to a church, let him have his life, and make satisfaction 
as the law directs. If any man put his hide in peril 
and flee to a church, let the scourging be forgiven him." 
The code drawn up by Alfred the Great in 887 made 
special reference to sanctuary, and from that period 
onward the right was always recognized, with various 
modifications and provisions, until it was finally abolished 
by law in 1624, though it had, of course, fallen into disuse 
as regards churches long before that time. England 
possessed many sanctuaries of peculiar repute and privi 
lege, such as Westminster, St. Martin-le-Grand, Beverley, 
and Hexham, but the right was claimed at many other 
places, and notably at the great Benedictine houses, 
and at certain of the minsters, including York and 
Lincoln. From a very early period of its history the 
Cistercian Order claimed the right of permanent sanc 
tuary, and the statute setting forth the claim was duly 
confirmed by Pope Eugenius III in 1152, and later by 
his successors, Celestine III and Innocent III. Accord 
ing to Dr. Cox, in his Sanctuaries and Sanctuary Seekers, 
the Order never made any particular effort to attract 
seekers after safety in England, but contented itself 
with sternly upholding its privilege if ever occasion 
arose. Still, the Cistercian abbeys of the North were 
certainly known as sanctuaries, for Archbishop Peckham, 

POWER 157 

in a letter written to Robert Malet in 1289, speaks of 
wrongdoers betaking themselves as converts to the great 
abbeys of the Cistercians in the North Country, and 
there finding safety. A certain number of the conversi 
were doubtless recruited from this class, and after proving 
their penitence, were admitted and pledged to lifelong 
labour in the service of the community. 


Dr. Cox quotes from the annals of the Cistercian house 
of Waverley a notable example of the power wielded by 
the Church, armed with the power of sanctuary right, 
in the reign of Henry III. About Eastertide, 1240, there 
came to Waverley Abbey a young man, who announced 
himself as a shoemaker, and being admitted and proved 
of a devout turn of mind, was put to his own trade in 
the service of the house. Until the following August 
all went well and peaceably : then arrived a certain 
knight and his retinue who demanded the young shoe 
maker on a charge of homicide, and, in spite of the 
strong protests of the abbot and monks, seized upon 
him and carried him off. Thereupon the abbot laid 
an interdict upon his own church, with the consent of 
his brethren ; no services were to be said until redress 
had been afforded and satisfaction made. The Papal 
Legate was at that time in England (Otto, Cardinal- 
Bishop of Palestrina, who was here from 1237 to 1241), 
and to him the abbot applied. But the Legate was 
either remiss or lukewarm : the abbot went to the 
King. The King was sympathetic, but his Council was 
not, and it was not until the abbot had promised to 
withdraw his interdict and resume his services that his 
petition was considered. But he was a man of persist 
ence and determination, and in the end he won his case. 
It was formally declared that the enclosures of all 
Cistercian houses and granges were exempt by papal 
authority from civil action, and that all persons violat 
ing their sanctuary were, ifiso facto, excommunicate. 


Upon this, the young shoemaker was restored to the 
abbey ; those who had haled him thence were made to 
appear at the gate ; there they were publicly whipped 
by one of the monks and the Vicar of Farnham, and 
that done, were absolved by the abbot, who doubtless 
mingled some sound advice with his forgiveness. 


It is difficult to arrive at a true estimate of the part 
played by the Cistercians in developing education in the 
Middle Ages. Thorold Rogers speaks, in general terms, 
of the monks as " the founders of schools." The writer 
of the manuscript referring to the suppression of Roche 
Abbey, quoted by Ellis in Original Letters (supposed to 
have been written by one Cuthbert Shirebrook, a South 
Yorkshire clergyman, who was educated at the Free 
School of Rotherham), says, " They taught the unlearned 
that was put to them to be taught ; yea, the poor as 
well as the rich, without demanding anything for their 
labour, other than what the rich parents were willing 
to give them." Gasquet, in his Henry VIII and. the 
English Monasteries, says, " It is vain to speculate on 
what might have been, but it is certain that the progress 
of sound learning represented by such men as Warham, 
More, Colet, and their friends, was arrested " (by the 
Dissolution of the religious houses). This remark is 
without doubt true so far as it concerns the Benedictine 
Order. But how far does it apply to the Cistercians ? 
Much confusion exists generally as to the state of educa 
tion in England previous to the Reformation. To hear 
some a great many people talk, one would gain the 
idea (if one did not know better) that there was next 
to no education in the country, especially for the poor, 
before the sixteenth century. That, of course, is pure 
nonsense ; there was a great deal of education in the 
country, available for even the poorest boy, who indeed, 
even if he were the son of the meanest bondman, had 
granted his undoubted possession of ability the chance 

POWER 159 

of proceeding to one or other of the two universities. 
The only Englishman who ever occupied the papal 
throne, Nicholas Breakspear (Hadrian IV), was of mean 
birth. So was Cardinal Easton. Cardinal Langley, 
Bishop of Durham and Keeper of the Great Seal, was 
the son of a Yorkshire farmer. Dr. Watson, in his book, 
The Old Grammar Schools, says that the total number 
of grammar schools in England before the Reformation 
was three hundred ; Mr. A. F. Leach, the best authority 
on the subject of pre-Reformation education, estimates 
that there was one such (grammar) school for every 8300 
of the population. Clearly, from all we can learn of the 
times in question, education was neither neglected, nor 
difficult to obtain between the Norman Conquest and 
the sixteenth century. There were, of course, chief 
centres the cathedral churches, the episcopal houses, 
the monastic houses. But as regards the last-named, 
all the available evidence goes to show that the love 
and spread of learning was almost entirely confined to 
the Benedictine Order. The followers of St. Benedict 
had always been devoted to study and the love of 
books. Their founder had ordered his disciples to give 
four hours a day to study, and had commanded the 
formation of libraries : " A cloister without a library," 
said he, " is as a fortress without an arsenal." William 
of Malmesbury went further. Neglect of learning in 
a monastery, he said, was a certain sign of decay. The 
Benedictine abbots were zealous in collecting books and 
manuscripts ; their scribes were always at work, copy 
ing, collating, adding to the literary treasures of the 
house. In Yorkshire, at St. Mary s of York, at Selby, 
and at Whitby, the Benedictines carried on the tradition 
of the great school of York, of which Alcuin had been 
one of the first flowers ; to the Benedictines one owes 
the best and most dependable of the medieval chronicles, 
though we owe much also to the Augustinian Canons, 
of whom William of Newburgh was a conspicuous 
example of zeal and learning. To the various houses 


of the Benedictines and the Augustinians, schools were 
attached whereat two classes of boys were taught, the 
oblati, who were intended for the cloister ; the nutriti, 
who were children of the neighbours and showed no 
sign of vocation to the monastic life. In these schools 
grammar, logic, arithmetic, music, drawing, and even 
architecture were taught ; so, too, was theology. 
Therefore, whoever says, or thinks, that there was next 
to no education in England before the Reformation, 
says or thinks what is not true. " Unlettered ignorance 
ought not to be alleged against the middle and lower 
classes of these ages," says Stubbs in his Constitutional 
History ; " in every village reading and writing must 
have been not unknown accomplishments, even if books 
and paper were so scarce as to confine these accomplish 
ments practically to the mere uses of business. Schools 
were by no means uncommon things ; there were schools 
in all cathedrals ; monasteries and colleges were every 
where, and wherever there was a monastery or a college 
there was a school." He adds further : " The Middle 
Ages did not pass away in total darkness in the matter 
of education ; and it was not in mockery that the 
Parliament of Henry IV left every man, free or villan, 
to send his sons and daughters to school wherever he 
could find one. For anything like higher education the 
universities offered abundant facilities and fairly liberal 
inducements to scholars ; every parish priest was bound 
to instruct his parishioners in a way that would stimu 
late the desire to learn wherever such a desire existed." 
And he adds to this a sound and unassailable argument 
how could Lollardism have gained the hold on the people 
which it undoubtedly did gain, for a time, by the secret 
propaganda of cheap tracts and pamphlets, if the faculty 
of reading had not been widely diffused ? 


But our present purpose is to find out how much 
share in education and in the encouragement of learning 

POWER 161 

and in the furtherance of love of books was taken by 
the Cistercians, and especially by the eight Yorkshire 
houses. The plain truth seems to be that whatever 
it was, it was a very insignificant one. In spite of the 
fact that the Cistercians of the first age looked to St. 
Benedict as their master and example, even they did 
not share his opinions as to the value of books. There 
are no evidences that the Order ever, at any time, 
cherished any great love of letters. We know that from 
the beginning it was absolutely forbidden to teach the 
conversus to read or write. If he could read or write 
before he gained admission to the Order, he was not to 
exercise his powers again : if he was illiterate, as he 
usually was, he was condemned to lifelong illiteracy. 
This hard rule was, of course, intended to loll two very 
unmonastical qualities ambition and discontent no 
true monk must be ambitious ; no true monk must ever 
look further than his appointed lot.- Ignorance, then, 
not only reigned, but was insisted upon amongst the 
Cistercian lay-brothers ; and the conversi formed a very 
considerable proportion of the community. Nor, so far 
as we can gather, was there ever any great love of 
education or learning amongst the monacbi. Now and 
then we hear of a really learned man, like Abbot Green- 
well, of Fountains ; but out of the Yorkshire Cistercians 
no great scholar, no painstaking chronicler, no profound 
student emerges. Nor do we hear of the formation of 
libraries, nor of the collection of manuscripts. In spite 
of St. Benedict s remark, the Cistercian houses seem to 
have been content to have remained as fortresses without 
arsenals. Gibbon, when he personally visited Clairvaux, 
some centuries after its establishment, during which it 
had certainly had time to accumulate vast quantities of 
books, remarked that while St. Bernard would have 
blushed at its pomp and grandeur of church and cloister 
he would have asked in vain for its library. And there 
was certainly a similar paucity of books in the eight 
Cistercian houses when the crash came under Henry VIII. 


One hears a great deal about the Cistercian possessions 
in the way of land, houses, woods, mines, quarries. The 
sheep, cattle, horses, were numbered by thousands. 
The vestments and furnishings were particularly rich. 
There was much gold and silver plate : 2840 ounces at 
Fountains (this did not include the solid gold cross and 
retable of the high altar) ; 522 ounces at Rievaulx ; 
516 ounces at Byland. But there is no mention of 
libraries ; no catalogues of books beyond service books. 
And where there were no books it is not likely that 
there would be any schools. There is, indeed, nothing 
to show that the Cistercians ever exercised any educa 
tional power in Yorkshire ; there are no records of 
schools attached to their houses. We know from Mr. 
A. F. Leach s book Early Yorkshire Schools that there 
were schools at York, Beverley, Ripon, Pontefract, 
Howden, Northallerton, Acaster, Rotherham, Giggles- 
wick, and Sedbergh ; but we do not hear of any instruc 
tion given at Kirkstall, even when Leeds was fast grow 
ing at its side, nor at Roche, set between four rising 
towns. Perhaps, in spite of the grammar schools of 
the old boroughs just mentioned, Yorkshire was back 
ward in educational progress. One would have thought, 
considering their popularity with the families of knight 
and squire, that the Cistercians would have helped in 
the education of the children of the gentry. But we 
have it on the authority of Miss M. H. and Miss R. Dodds, 
in their monumental and deeply learned work on The 
Pilgrimage of Grace, that when that famous rising took 
place 1536 there were very few of the Yorkshire 
gentry who could either read or write. 


Still, the eight houses possessed something in the way 
of books perhaps more than we give them credit for, 
though it will always remain a strangely unexplained 
thing that lists of libraries are not included in the in 
ventories which were made, with a good deal of care, 

POWER 163 

at the Suppression. The late -Mr. J A. Walbran, in a 
paper read at Byland to the members of the Yorkshire 
Architectural Society, in June 1864, mentioned four 
books rescued from Byland Abbey, and now in the 
British Museum. " The Harleian MS. 3641," he said, 
" which was rescued by Harley from the hands of some 
ignorant persons in London, in the year 1716, is a 
beautiful folio copy of the twelfth century, slightly 
deficient at the end of William of Malmesbury s De 
Gestis Pontificum Anglorum, inscribed on the first page, 
Liber Sanctce Maries de Belldanda. A similar inscription 
will be found on the dorse of the U2th folio of the 
Cotton MS. Julius, A. xi a collection, in small quarto, 
of several historical and biographical works, the titles 
of which will be found in the printed catalogue. It once 
belonged to Lord Burghley, and was given to the Cotton 
Library, in 1609, by Mr. Henry Savell. There is internal 
evidence that the Royal MS. 5 E. xxii, an octavo volume 
containing eight treatises of Gregory Nazianzen, tran 
scribed in the twelfth century, belonged to Byland, 
and the like with reference to the Royal MS. 8 F. xv, a 
quarto of equal antiquity, in which will be found eighty- 
three Epistles of St. Bernard, his Apologia de vita ei 
moribus Religiosorum, and Patri Abelardi Haeresium 
Capitula. Among the collection of manuscripts formed 
by several members of the Savile family, and dispersed 
by sale in 1861, was a splendid vellum folio of the 
thirteenth century, inscribed on the top of the first leaf, 
Liber Sanctce Maries de Bellelanda. It contained Bede s 
Opusculum in Librum Actuum Apostolorum, with his 
Exposition of the Canonical Epistles of the Apostles 
St. James, St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. In the 
catalogue it is described as written by an English scribe, 
with painted capitals, in the original oak boards, covered 
with ox-hide, having brass knobs to protect the hair " 
a good example of the care exercised by medieval 



Just as much controversy has always hung around 
the position of the Cistercians as landowners, so there 
have always been two schools of opinion on the vexed 
question of their charities. The conventional notion is 
that day by day, at the gate of the abbey, the almoner, 
full of love and kindness, distributed food, clothing, 
money to the poor. Nobody living within touch of a 
Cistercian house wanted anything. Consequently, there 
were no poor, and so no need of Poor Laws, workhouses, 
overseers, guardians, relieving officers, and all the rest 
of the bad things that came with Elizabeth. Eighty 
thousand people, say those who favour this highly drawn 
view of things, were turned literally on to the streets 
and highways when the monastic houses were swept 
away : hence the setting up of the Poor-Law administra 
tion which has always been such a matter of vexation. 
But it must be obvious that all this is an exaggeration. 
There is no doubt that 8000 religious were turned out 
of their houses ; there seems no doubt, either, that 
80,000 people suffered because of this summary Sup 
pression. But these 80,000 people were not folk who 
had lived on monastic charity rather, they were folk 
who had been, more or less, in monastic employ. Doubt 
less the Yorkshire Cistercians, in common with all 
religious, gave away a good deal in charity; it may 
have been, as one school of critics says, a very bad 
thing for the people, making them into mere dependents, 
encouraging idleness and the like ; it may, as another 
school says, have been but the fulfilling of the law of 
Christ. But one cannot help wondering, after closely 
examining all the known records of the Cistercian houses 
of Yorkshire, if this relief of the poor ever existed 
save in the early days of settlement to such an extent 
as has commonly been supposed. Some of the houses 
had been supplied with funds for the special purpose of 
daily alms. Meaux, for example, had no fewer than 

POWER 165 

eighteen grants of this sort for free and perpetual alms 
to be made at the gate. But were these kept up ? Did 
the communities give away money, food, clothing, as 
constantly and generously as has been said ? There are 
a good many evidences that in the last stages of their 
career they did not, that charity largely ceased, and 
that what was given away was in the shape of doles, 
made in broadcast fashion, now and again, with very 
little discrimination, and then, not out of the funds of 
the community, but from private donors who made the 
monks their almoners. In the later records of the 
houses, while there are multitudinous entries of moneys 
expended on the community itself, on meat and drink, 
on vestments, on gold and silver, on matters connected 
with conveyance of property, on trade, and especially 
on legal expenses, there is very little to show expenditure 
on poor relief. The entry of $s. 8d, bestowed on the 
poor at Salley in 1381 is significant. " It was," remarks 
Grainge, " less than one-thousandth part of the abbey s 
income." In fact, so far as we can gather from records, 
the Yorkshire Cistercians did not compare favourably 
with the other Yorkshire religious Orders in this matter 
of charity. St. Leonard s Hospital at York, founded 
about the time of the Norman Conquest, is credited with 
having regularly maintained between two and three 
hundred poor and infirm. At Easby Abbey meat and 
drink were distributed weekly to several poor persons ; 
there was a daily dole ; there were special doles on 
special feasts. We learn little of this sort of charity 
amongst the Cistercian communities ; what does seem 
to be the truth is that on their estates the folk were 
pretty much in the position of those people who nowadays 
live on the well-managed estate of a benevolent country 
gentleman, and are put in the way of earning sufficient 
by doing small tasks in return for numerous quiet little 
gifts : they were, in fact, hangers-on, who picked up 
the crumbs. Naturally such people felt it bitterly when 
the tables of their masters were ruthlessly levelled with 


the ground. From the monastic landlords fell many 
crumbs : the new order, in cutting the bread, took care 
to make none. 


At their first coming into England, the Cistercians, 
by their zeal and enthusiasm, their simplicity of life and 
austerity of practice, exercised great influence in matters 
of a purely religious nature. That influence died out. 
Their sheep were the sheep of commerce ; their flocks 
those of the meadow and the moor. But the religious 
influence was replaced by a considerable amount of 
ecclesiastical power. In common with the other religious 
Orders they became possessed of a large number of 
advowsons ; each of the eight Yorkshire houses held 
many. Into such a living was often put a priest who 
was but ill-paid. " Neither he nor the occasional visitor 
from the monastic house," writes Dean Stephens, " had 
any permanent interest in the parish." Very often the 
monastic houses farmed out their livings to clerks for 
a small rent : hence arose many difficulties and disputes. 
At first, to be sure, the Cistercians set themselves against 
this system. " At starting," remarks Dr. Jessopp, " the 
Cistercians were decidedly opposed to the alienating of 
tithes and appropriating them to the endowment of 
their abbeys, and this was probably one among other 
causes why the Cistercians prospered so wonderfully as 
they did during the first hundred years or so after their 
first coming here." But as time went on, the Order 
fell into line with the older Orders in this respect, and 
thus originated the numerous difficulties about vicarages 
and advowsons and ecclesiastical rights in which the 
Cistercians figure so constantly in the legal records. 
Gasquet would have us believe that the relations between 
the religious and secular clergy were as a whole amicable 
and good, but the entries in the various legal chronicles 
say otherwise. The disputes between the abbots of the 
eight Yorkshire houses and the secular clergy were 

POWER 167 

numerous, constant, and bitter ; there is much, truth 
in Dr. Jessopp s remark that "when the monasteries 
fell; the clergy were the very last people to lament their 
fall." And the real secret of this bad and unhappy 
state of things lay in the fact that the Cistercians were 
free of episcopal supervision and visitation. From the 
beginning the Order stood firm against interference by 
bishops. Even Stephen Harding himself, as Fowler 
points out, " took care to secure his Order against the 
influence of secular bishops . . . the words Salvo ordini 
nostro were added to the oath of canonical obedience, 
taken by every abbot on receiving the benediction from 
the bishop." This freedom from episcopal supervision 
was obtained, of course, with papal sanction ; hence the 
Order looked direct to Rome when it came in conflict, 
as it constantly did, with diocesans. And this was one 
of the things which contributed to its eventual fall. 
Yet the freedom had an even worse feature than adhe 
rence to an overseas power, for in strict practice it 
meant that outside themselves an abbot and his house 
were responsible to no one. 




No one has ever written of English Church life in the 
later Middle Ages with more understanding and sympathy, 
nor with a more scrupulous desire to be fair and truthful, 
than the late Dr. Jessopp, whose various books on the 
subject have caused him to be regarded as a leading 
apologist of the monks and friars who played so large 
a part in English life between the twelfth and the six 
teenth centuries. As scholar, antiquary, and archaeolo 
gist, he deeply resented the erroneous and misleading 
views which had prevailed for so long a period, and in 
numerous writings he set himself to the task of making 
clear to nineteenth-century readers what the real truth 
was as to certain aspects of English history at and before 
the Reformation. Thousands of readers learned from 
him more of what monasticism had really been than they 
had ever known before ; a still larger number found in 
his account of the friars information which probably 
surprised them. Until his time, the average English 
man, if he thought of the old monks at all, thought of 
them as a pack of lazy fellows who ate and drank of 
the best ; of the friars, as of a tribe of licensed beggars, 
whose proper place was the nearest house of correction. 
Dr. Jessopp did much to place both monks and friars 
in their true light, clearing away the rubbish which had 
gathered round the original structure. Many people 
considered him unduly prejudiced in favour of the old 
institutions : he has been placed in the forefront of that 



school of writers which insists that things before the 
Reformation were not by one-half so bad as another 
school has made out they were. Yet what were his 
conclusions as to the exact place of monasticism in 
English history ? He states them plainly in a paper 
written in 1893. "After a trial of some two or three 
centuries the monks had fallen very far behind their 
ideal. As houses for the studious, as nurseries for 
scholars pursuing their researches, as schools for the 
rising generation, the religious houses had proved a 
failure. The few splendid exceptions only proved the 
rule that the monasteries were doing less than was 
expected of them in the way of raising the standard 
of morals, devotion, and, least of all, of learning." 
Here, then, is the definite conclusion of a truly 
competent authority the religious houses had proved 
a failure. 


There are reasons for all failures. What was the 
reason of this failure ? particularly in regard to the 
Cistercians, who had begun their life in England with 
such splendid promise ? To answer that question satis 
factorily, we must once more look back to the Cis 
tercian ideal. That may be summed up in a sentence 
austerity of life, devotion in prayer, strictness in 
labour. Anything in excess of this, any departure from 
this, was not in the original conception. Simplicity was 
the keynote of all. Such outward manifestation as was 
unavoidable was to be cut down to the primitive. 
Architecture was to be plain ; ritual to be plain ; vest 
ments to be plain ornament, decoration, embellishment 
were to be rigidly excluded. Not the outward seeming, 
but the inner truth was the object aimed at. The plain 
Latin cross in the planning of the first Cistercian churches ; 
the vestment of plain linen or fustian ; the one iron 
candlestick of the altar ; the rigid rule as to the exclusion 
of gold vessels ; the forbidding of pictures and stained 


glass these things were full of significance. Not out 
ward show, but inward piety was to be the distinguishing 
mark of the disciples of Stephen Harding and Bernard 
of Clairvaux. And to that ideal the first Yorkshire 
Cistercians kept, but their successors departed from it. 
How far they departed we may judge by considering 
what the eight houses were in outward aspects in the 
fifteenth century. The ancient simplicity and plainness 
had gone. Church and cloister alike were, in respect 
of architecture alone, the marvels of the countryside. 
The severity of the original plan had long since given 
place to carefully elaborated detail and -magnificence. 
The windows blazed with colour : the inner walls were 
bright with mural decoration. The one iron candlestick 
of the high altar had been replaced by many, of precious 
metal ; the silver-gilt altar vessels by chalices, ewers, 
flagons, and dishes of pure gold, set with precious stones ; 
the wooden cross, two mere strips of lath, painted, had 
made way for one of solid gold ; a solid gold retable 
supported the lights. Instead of the plain linen or 
fustian vestments, vestments of the finest silk, orna 
mented with gold, silver, and gems, were stored in pro 
fusion in the sacristy chests ; every church possessed 
numerous magnificent copes, the use of which had been 
at first forbidden, or severely restricted. The ritual of 
the church was carried out with as much pomp and 
ceremony as was used in great cathedrals, or in the 
Cluniac churches ; the Cistercians, in fact, had fallen 
into line with the ceremonialists, and had forgotten their 
original Puritan notions. We may be sure that the 
first Abbot of Fountains thought himself well provided 
for if he possessed a silver chance and paten and one set 
of plain linen vestments, but his successors of the fifteenth 
century could point to altar plate which ran into the 
thousands of ounces, and to vestments which were not 
only numbered by the score, but were fashioned of the 
richest materials. 



Nor was it only in these things that the change was 
apparent. The first Cistercian monks had not only 
prayed, but worked ; they were as ready to put their 
hands to the spade and the pick as they were quick to 
put their knees to the pavement. With their own hands 
they felled the tree, cleared away the brushwood, pre 
pared the rescued soil, sowed the seed, reaped the 
harvest. With their own hands they tended and sheared 
the sheep, tore the ore from the mine, smelted it at the 
forge. The first houses were hives of industry. What 
ever was done on the first-given lands was done by the 
brothers themselves, according to the rule of the founders. 
Truly they earned their bread before they ate it. Tar 
different had things become by the time when Fountains 
was lord of most of the land between Ripon and Craven, 
and Kirkstall owned many a thousand acres in the heart 
of the county. Not even an army of monachi and 
conversi could have worked such enormous possessions. 
And so, instead of working their land themselves, as it 
was originally intended they should, the communities 
began letting it out to farmers henceforth their sub 
sistence was derived, not from their own daily labour, 
but from rent. We may truthfully say that the decline 
of the Order began when its members first handed over 
the soil to other men, and instead of raising produce 
from it by their own industry, accepted payment for 
its use. The original idea, as exemplified at Citeaux 
and Clairvaux and in the first Yorkshire settlements, 
had never contemplated the transformation of the monk 
into the landlord. Land, doubtless, he was to possess, 
in reasonable quantity, but he was to till it with his 
own hands. Now as soon as the monk began letting 
other men till his land and took rent for the permission 
he became a landlord and a landlord, in theory, is one 
who stands by while another labours, and the theory 
is as we know usually reduced to practice. As regards 


their landed possessions, the Cistercians "eventually 
became brotherhoods of bachelor gentlemen, whose 
estates were let on easy terms, and who were chiefly 
anxious that matters should proceed on equally easy 
lines so far as themselves and their tenants were con 
cerned. It is impossible to deny that during the last 
stages of their history the Cistercians in Yorkshire were 
not given to manual labour, that the conversi had largely 
disappeared from the houses (after 1350 they practically 
disappeared altogether in most communities), and that 
hired servants did the work of the establishments. In 
view of their enormous possessions each of the eight 
Yorkshire houses ought to have been supporting a great 
community, but we know from the Suppression papers 
that there were comparatively few inmates in any one 
of them. These few, so far as we can gather, lived the 
lives of comfortably installed fellows of a college ; their 
business was managed for them by their duly appointed 
officers, and while they kept up the ritual duties, they 
apparently had no more to do than is done by a cathedral 
staff at this day. Between them and the first Cistercians 
there was as great a difference as between the sloth and 
indulgence of St. Mary s at York against which Prior 
Richard protested, and the privation and poverty which 
he bravely faced in Skeldale in the first bitter winter of 
his exodus. 


Money was not the thing that Stephen Harding went 
out to seek when he left Molesmes with the rest of his 
companions ; money, we may be sure, was not in Prior 
Richard s thoughts when he walked out of York bereft 
of everything but the clothes on his back. But money 
forced itself into the Cistercian plan before many years 
were gone, in the shape of land and houses, lead-mines 
and sheep, stone-quarries and wool-warehouses, and it 
, tended to the Cistercian decline. For when we come 
to the plain truth, the Cistercians forsook God for 


Mammon. What had they to do with money if they 
meant to keep to the good, sound idea of their begin 
nings ? What had they to do with the world which 
bought and sold, and was greedy in amassing, and 
unscrupulous in dealing, and envious of other men s 
goods, and was for ever scheming and contriving in the 
scraping the second penny to the first, and this perch 
of land to that acre ? Nothing yet the whole history 
of the eight houses makes a story of constant and unsleep 
ing accumulation of property. It had been better, far 
better, for them if men had not been so generous ; if 
great nobles had stayed their hand in flinging them a 
parcel of land here and another there ; if there had not 
been so many rich gifts at their altars ; if such encourage 
ment had not been given them to build their walls and 
extend their boundaries. But during their first fifty 
years of existence in Yorkshire they became the fashion, 
and it may be that they then believed they would always 
remain in fashion. It is strange, considering how well 
versed in Holy Writ they were, like all Churchmen of 
that age, that they never re-read the story of Joseph, 
reflecting what befell him when a king arose who knew 
him not. 


For there came a time when the pious founder, the 
devout benefactor, the zealous patron, disappeared from 
the Cistercian ken. It is not difficult to put oneself in 
the place of the medieval abbot who found lands and 
money flowing in upon him at such a rate that he 
thought it no sin to make the church more stately than 
he had at first intended, or to house his community in 
a cloister much more commodious than he had first 
planned. He naturally thought that the stream of 
benevolence, instead of decreasing in volume, would 
grow stronger and richer. Unfortunately, the stream 
narrowed, grew shallower, dried up. The time came 
when there were no new endowments to be recorded in 


the chartularies. It came almost suddenly. We can 
almost put our fingers on the precise moment wherein 
the public ceased to give to the Cistercians in Yorkshire. 
Up to a certain point in time they were always getting 
gifts of lands and properties. Suddenly, nobody gives 
any more. Why ? There must be some reason. In 
truth, there were many. One was the shifting of public 
favour. The friars came : they were something new ; 
their zeal was infectious ; they became the fashion : 
let us give to the friars, black or grey, instead of to the 
monks, who, to be sure, are already well provided for. 
Without a doubt, the Dominicans and the Franciscans 
supplanted the monks in the popular sympathies and 
affections. We have plenty of proof of it : the records 
of benefactions show that after the coming of the friars, 
grants of land and property slip away from the monks 
and are given to the new-comers. They are the newest 
fashions in religion, and religion has its fashions, like 
everything else. So the friar gains and the monk loses, 
and there is no love lost between them, any more than 
there is any love lost between them, lumped together, 
and the secular clergy, who heartily dislike both. Here, 
certainly, is one reason of financial loss : the Cistercians 
are no longer the mode. And possibly the people are 
beginning to see that the Cistercians are not quite such 
saintly characters as they were in the beginning. 

6. MONEY. 

So the communities which have launched out, building 
grandly, as if for ever, find that money does not come 
in as it used to, and there begins that long battling with 
financial difficulties which is so marked a feature of 
Cistercian history, and so very unsuited to a Christian 
monastic Order. Once more let us insist for it is the 
very essence of our argument that monks should have 
nothing to do with money : the very touch of it should 
be to them as the touch of the Evil One. But with the 
Cistercians, as things were, money was ever present. 


One shrewdly suspects that whether it was talked of in 
chapter or not, the abbot and his principal officers were 
obliged to talk a great deal about money. It had to be 
found for building purposes, and for repairs, and for 
expenses. Of course, when the estates grew large, and 
much land was farmed out, and tenants were numbered 
by the hundred money came in, in considerable bulk. 
But if it came in, it also went out. Figure to yourself 
what a medieval abbey really was one established on 
the scale of Fountains, at any rate. Food, clothing, 
maintenance of,all sorts for a community of men number 
ing, at one time, into the hundreds ; the cost of keeping 
up vast estates ; the giving away of charity to the poor ; 
the paying of pensions ; the entertainment of guests ; 
the paying of interest on loans ; and, no inconsiderable 
item, the defraying of law expenses. These were all 
ordinary items in the budget ; there are many more 
ordinary items, it is obvious, which one need not par 
ticularize, because they are so obvious and can be 
thought of by any man who knows what it costs to run 
a big establishment o r a great estate. 


But there were special drains on the houses. If one 
places a pot of sweet-stuff in the sun, one may be sure 
that the wasps will soon be gathered about it. Before 
the Cistercians had been established fifty years in 
England, men were talking of their wealth. Now in 
those days, whenever and wherever there was wealth in 
England, there was one institution which was going, by 
hook or by crook, to have as much of it as it could grasp 
and carry away with both hands. From the time in 
which the Cistercians had become owners of property, 
masters of flocks and herds, to the very end wherein 
they had to give up everything, the Crown always had 
an eye on their coffers. From Richard I to Henry VIII 
every English sovereign wanted his share and took 
care to get it. Is money wanted for a ransom ? as in 


the case of Richard then the Cistercians must con 
tribute so many thousands of sacks of wool. Is money 
needed to pay some ruffian band of foreign mercenaries ? 
let the Cistercians find more wool, or as much money 
as is equivalent to it wool or money, specie or material, 
it matters little, so long as they pay. And they were 
always paying. The gross amount of taxation (usually 
forced) yielded up by the Order to the English Crown 
during the four hundred years of its existence must 
have been literally enormous. 


But there was not only the King. The Pope wanted 
his share, and as the Order was under his special protec 
tion, shielded by him from episcopal supervision and 
interference, he took care to get it. Perhaps he got 
more than the King got. In the thirteenth and four 
teenth centuries the Pope got a good deal out of England : 
little wonder that England should in those times have 
been regarded as " the milch-cow of the papacy." 
There was the yearly tribute the thousand marks at 
which it was fixed formed a very small and insignificant 
item in the whole schedule of the budget of papal 
exaction from this country. There were the Tallages 
payments by the clergy to the Pope as feudal superior. 
In 1225 one prebend or manor in every cathedral was 
claimed ; in 1229 a demand was made for a tenth of 
all ecclesiastical property in the kingdom. There were 
the An nates firstfruits a first year s entire clerical 
income ; originally payable only in respect of benefices 
and preferments in the Pope s gift, this had gradually 
become applied to every bishopric and benefice in the 
land. Then there were the Papal Provisions, by which 
the papacy provided in advance a holder of whatever 
benefice next fell vacant. Such holders were often 
foreigners, who never came near the country, though 
they took good care to have agents in it who scrupu 
lously exacted their dues. Ganulinus de Ossa, a cardinal, 


who was nephew of Pope John XXII, at one time held 
the livings of Hackney, Hollingbourne, Pagham, and 
Lyminge, together with the prebend of Driffield in York 
Minster : this man drew from England no less than 
.1000 a year, equal to quite 20,000 of our money, and 
he also held important benefices in France at Cahors, 
and at Rouen, and at Saintes and at Rheims. Then 
there was Peter s Pence at first a voluntary offering, 
but by that time regarded by the papacy as its just due, 
and jealously extracted. More money went to Rome in 
prosecuting appeals. The Cistercians, judging by their 
records, must have laid out a great deal of their wealth 
in that way. First and last, money flowed out of the 
country to the papacy like water. " To such a pitch 
had the avarice of the Romans been allowed to grow," 
says Matthew Paris (Chron. Maj., Rolls Series, v. 355), 
" and such a point had it reached, that the Bishop of 
Lincoln, being struck with amazement at it, caused his 
clerks carefully to reckon and estimate all the revenues 
of foreigners in England, and it was discovered and 
found for truth that the present Pope, Innocent IV, 
had pauperized the whole Church more than all his 
predecessors from the time of the primitive papacy. 
The revenue of the alien clerks whom he had planted 
in England, and whom the Roman Church had enriched, 
amounted to more than 70,000 marks. The King s 
revenue could not be reckoned at more than a third 
part of the sum." Now and then even the abbots of 
the Orders specially protected by the Pope grumbled at 
and made some feeble resistance to the avaricious papal 
demands, but the fear of excommunication and interdict 
was too strong, and the money asked for was invariably 


The system of corrodies helped greatly in furthering 
the decline of the houses. It had often been resorted 
to by abbots who were in temporary need of ready 



money : many abbots had in this way pledged the 
credit of the future for very little present gain. What 
was paid down by the corrodier was presently gone ; 
then the corrodier had to be maintained for life ; when 
the corrodies of an abbey were numerous (and in some 
abbeys the number of corrodiers and pensioners was 
far greater than that of the brotherhood) the yearly 
expense became serious. But there were other draw 
backs in connexion with the system. The outdoor cor 
rodiers folk who fetched or had taken to them the 
rations which had been agreed upon saw little of the 
community, but the indoor pensioners mixed more or 
less freely with them. Hence a certain breaking down 
of monastic discipline ; the corrodiers demanded better 
accommodation, softer beds, easier seats, less Spartan 
simplicity in matters of food and drink ; in many cases 
they encouraged the monks to rebel against the strict 
rule ; altogether, as certain records show, it was not 
good for them to be in the house, especially under a 
lax and easygoing abbot. Here and there one finds 
evidence that the monks and the corrodiers gossiped 
together, that they joined each other in games, par 
ticularly in chess : simple things in themselves, no 
doubt, but not in accordance with the spirit of the 
cloister. Nevertheless the corrody system was kept up 
to a considerable extent, and there are numerous 
instances of a corrody being demanded as a right, 
notably by patrons who had given land to an abbey, 
and who accordingly considered themselves justified in 
planting pensioners upon it. 


Much money was spent by the Order in acquiring 
rectorial tithes, when they held or could secure advow- 
sons. It was necessary in all these cases to get the 
sanction of the Crown, and often the consent of the 
Pope ; and some very curious reasons were given to the 
papal authorities by the various abbots in presenting 


their petitions to be allowed to make these appropria 
tions. One wants to repair his cloister ; another to 
improve the church ; a third candidly says they need 
better ale in their f rater ; a fourth wishes to be in a 
position to spend more money on visitors ; a fifth pleads 
real poverty. As to the parish which is concerned in 
these dealings, the wishes of its folk are utterly ignored 
by abbot, bishop, king, and pope the living is a mere 
pawn, to be bargained for. But if one goes by results 
the Order gained little, if anything, by these dealings 
in advowsons, and the expense incurred in putting them 
through was great. No better instance of what really 
took place when Cistercian abbeys appropriated livings 
can be found than that of Meaux and the livings of 
Easington and Keyingham, in the East Riding. These 
two livings passed into the hands of Meaux between 
1339 and 1349, after several years negotiations between 
the abbot, the rectors of Easington and Keyingham, 
the Abbot of Aumale in Normandy, the Archbishop of 
York, the Chapter of York, and the Pope all of whom 
had interests at stake. The proceedings, as recorded in 
the chronicles, are instructive. First the Abbot of 
Meaux urged upon the Archbishop of York that the 
advowsons of Easington and Keyingham had been given 
by Edward I in exchange for Wyke and the manor of 
Wyton, and that Meaux had suffered great loss of land 
by erosion of the coast in that district, which losses 
could be made good if the community were permitted 
to appropriate these two churches. The archbishop 
held an inquiry : the result was favourable to Meaux ; 
the churches were then incorporated " for perpetual 
possession for our own use and our successors." But 
now came in all those who had rights. Sir John de 
Bothby was Rector of Keyingham : he had to be bought 
out. Sir Hugh de Glanville was Rector of Easington : 
he, too, had to be compensated. But there were two 
preceding rectors who had some rights : they also wanted 
compensation. Amongst them, these four clergymen 


made Meaux pay heavily : de Glanville, for instance, 
got a pension of 100 marks a year, and bound the com 
munity in 1000 to pay it. But this was not all. The 
Archbishop, Dean, and Chapter of York had rights 
which came to a considerable annual sum that had to 
be arranged for. Then, the Abbot of Aumale drew a 
pension of 23^. a year from Easington, and another of 
13.?. 4^. from Keyingham : they had to guarantee to 
him that these should be paid. Also, the Provost of 
Beverley demanded 44 quarters of corn from Easington ; 
17^ quarters from Keyingham : they had to be arranged 
for. All this done, the convent appointed the first two 
vicars the Vicar of Easington is to have 20 marks a 
year ; his neighbour of Keyingham, 12 . But now came 
in the papacy. There was some hitch in the proceedings 
- the Curia wanted to see the original documents. A 
monk of Meaux was sent all the way to Avignon, where 
the papacy was then quartered, with attested copies. 
That would not do ; he had to travel home again to 
fetch the originals. Eventually, by bribing the Cardinal 
of St. Eustache and the Cardinal of St. Marcial with 
200 florins each, and by giving another hundred to the 
Abbot of Citeaux, John de Bussieres, who had just 
been raised to the cardinalate, the ambassador got his 
business done, and everything of Keyingham and 
Easington, two more or less obscure villages, belonged 
to Meaux. 


That financial troubles had a great deal to do with 
the decline in the Cistercian houses there can be no 
doubt. Some abbots were not fitted to deal with money 
matters ; some were rash in building ; some were 
improvident ; some were personally extravagant. Far 
too much money was spent in lavish entertainment of 
great folk ; occasionally, far too much was laid out by 
the abbot himself in his journeys, or, in the later times, 
in keeping up his dignity. But there were other reasons, 


most of them having some connexion with money. 
" Abundance of money," said the Cellarer of Leicester 
in 1440, " is the cause of many evils." If the Cistercians 
had not had an abundance of money, or its equivalent, 
at one time, they would not have had to borrow money 
from the Jews. For when they had money they laid 
it out lavishly at one period at any rate and when 
money did not come in, they borrowed. Sometimes 
let us hope not very often they contrived by appeals 
to the Crown to get out of their indebtedness to the 
Jews, but they doubtless paid the sons of Israel large 
sums by way of interest. Still, not even the expenses 
consequent upon borrowing money could ever have 
involved the eight houses in such waste of wealth as 
resulted from the constant litigation. That was always 
going on the records are full of it. Gasquet would 
have us believe that it was only " such as will happen 
between men of all classes," but it was more. The 
houses- were always at law, not only with laymen, but 
with ecclesiastics, from bishops down to country parsons ; 
nay, one house thought nothing of going to law with 
another house. " The rival interests of houses even of 
the same Order," remarks Mr. Capes, " led at times to 
most unedifying scenes. Disputed boundaries, or a no- 
man s land between neighbouring estates, uncertain 
rights of patronage, questions of the dues at fairs or 
market, these and the Hke caused long-standing disputes, 
coming to a climax now and then when sturdy monks 
gathered with their armed retainers to make good their 
claims with open show of violence and broken heads." 
Nor was this spirit of quarrelling confined to litigation 
and to contests with outsiders. There is abundant 
evidence to show that faction and disorder were not at 
all unknown within the communities. Meaux once more 
furnishes a notable example in the discord and intrigue 
which was rampant there in 1353. 



Yet we are not to think that all the causes which led 
to the decline and failure of the Cistercians came from 
within. From an economic standpoint the communities 
suffered severely from the visitation commonly known 
as the Black Death suffered so much, indeed, that their 
material prosperity became affected in a fashion from 
which it never really recovered. A form of plague 
" the most horrible which the world ever witnessed," 
Green calls it swept over Europe from South to North 
in 1348, and at the close of the year made its appearance 
in this country. Its effects were such as we can now 
scarcely conceive. The population at that time did not 
exceed, at the outside, three and a half millions : of 
these, at least one-half was swept away. In the towns, 
where there was no drainage and people lived under 
unsanitary conditions, the ravages were of a terrible 
nature. In London, fifty thousand corpses were interred 
in one burial-ground, on the site of which was after 
wards built the Charterhouse. Sixty thousand people are 
said to have died at Norwich, then one of the most 
thicldy populated towns in the county ; at Bristol " the 
living were hardly able to bury the dead." In East 
Anglia the ravages of the disease were particularly 
dreadful. Dr. Jessopp calculates that eight hundred of the 
beneficed clergy of that district died in 1349. The Court 
Rolls of East Anglia show that there were immense 
numbers of properties left absolutely ownerless in that 
part of the country there was no one left living who 
could claim them. So, in perhaps a lesser degree, was 
it all over the land. " Sheep and cattle strayed through 
the fields and corn," says a contemporary writer ; 
" there were none left who could drive them." Religious 
processions walked the streets, imploring the Divine 
mercy. At Hereford the shrine of St. Cantilupe was 
regularly carried through the city in hopes that it might 
avert the dreaded visitation. And at this time appeared 


the Brothers of the Cross, or Flagellants, who perambu 
lated the towns, singing penitential psalms and litanies, 
and scourging themselves as they walked. All over the 
land men waited in despair, fearing that the hand of 
death might be laid upon them at any moment : to 
most folk it was as if the Last Day had dawned. 


The plague broke out in Yorkshire early in 1349, and 
raged for some months with great violence. Thousands 
of deaths occurred in York ; according to certain old 
documents, three-fourths of the entire population of the 
city must have succumbed. In the archdeaconry of the 
West Riding there were ninety-six deaths amongst the 
clergy ; in the East Riding, sixty incumbents died out 
of ninety-five. One of the victims was Richard Rolle, 
the hermit of Hampole, author of the Pricke of Conscience. 
In all the more populous towns the scenes were repeated 
which had already become familiar in London, and in 
Norwich, and in Bristol. And at Meaux, always the 
most unfortunate of the Cistercian abbeys of the county, 
the ravages were particularly dreadful. At the begin 
ning of August 1349, Meaux had a community of forty- 
two monks and seven lay-brothers ; at the end of the 
month twenty-three monks and six lay-brothers were 
dead. At one time, the abbot, Hugo or Hugh de Leven, 
and five monks lay dead together within the house. 
In the end not a lay-brother was left, and thirty-two 
monks were dead, and the ten survivors were faced 
with an altered condition of things. " The greater part 
of the tenants were dead," writes Mr. Earle, describing 
the state of affairs at Meaux ; " rents were not paid, 
crops lay rotted on the ground, stock had perished, for 
there had been no one to gather in the harvest, no one 
to water or feed the animals ; the future was gloomy, 
no one remained to begin the autumn ploughing. 
Tenants who were not dead were ruined." 



As it was at Meaux, so it was with the other monastic 
communities. The effect of the Black Death on these 
communities generally is so ably and concisely summed 
up by Mr. Capes (History of the English Church, iii, 81-82) 
that one cannot do better than carefully repeat and 
closely consider what he says : " Another result of the 
great plague was a general falling off in the number of 
the inmates and the means of the religious houses. 
Many of these had beeri in dire financial straits before. 
They had overbuilt themselves, or mismanaged their 
affairs, or fallen into the hands of moneylenders, when 
the liberal gifts of pious founders ceased to flow. The 
pestilence thinned their numbers and so lessened their 
expenses, but it greatly crippled them in other ways. 
They had lived upon the produce of their lands, but 
now labour became scarce and dear, and the profits of 
their half-cultivated manors disappeared. In their 
estates . . . another system began to be adopted. 
Instead of the old capitalist cultivator, with a bailiff 
on each large estate, tenant farming before long was 
introduced. . . . The change was a gradual one, of 
course ; some tried to struggle on, but the profits which 
had been once made under the old system . . . had 
almost disappeared, and at last the bailiff was replaced 
by the tenant farmer. . . . For the character and the 
reputation of the monks themselves it was unfortunate 
that they should be thus wholly divorced from the 
active cares of agricultural life. They had long ago 
forsaken the manual labour prescribed in their own 
interest by the old Benedictine rule ; the improved 
methods of their model farms, the new experiments and 
importations, the successful sheep-breeding of the Cis 
tercian houses, were mainly matters of the past, but at 
least while they held the estates in their own hands 
the management and supervision provided varied work 
for the energetic members of their body. When that 


was given up too many of them were left with little 
but their time upon their hands, and as their spiritual 
zeal visibly declined there was more likelihood that 
their neighbours would regard them as a mere encum 


What was the opinion of the " neighbour " of this 
period ? We know well enough what was said of the 
monastic communities by Wyclif and his followers, and 
by the Lollards, and by certain other folk, who, like 
them, were sorely prejudiced and biased. Of such say 
ings we need take no more heed than one commonly 
gives to partisan statements. But what was the opinion 
of men of repute, upon whose views we can rely with 
some amount of assurance and confidence ? There are 
four men to whom we can turn Geoffrey Chaucer, 
William Langland, Walter Map, Gerald de Barri. They 
were all good Churchmen, sound, devoted : each, in 
varying degree, was what one would call a man of the 
world in the sense that they knew life and could judge 
men ; each was shrewd, observant, a good judge of 
character. If it is objected that Chaucer was a poet, 
and wrote with poetic licence and exaggeration, it should 
be remembered that Chaucer was also a man of affairs 
and of business ; one who had mixed much in con 
temporary society, been concerned in financial matters ; 
one who was, in short, a prominent civil servant of his 
day. Now in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales 
Chaucer sketches a monk for us such a monk as he 
doubtless knew by the score. What sort of picture is 
it ? His monk is one that loves venery ; he is a manly 
man, able to be an abbot ; he has many a good horse 
in his stable ; when he rides, men may hear his bridle 
jingle ; he cares nothing for the text which says that 
a monk out of his cloister is as a fish out of water ; he 
cares less for study ; he is all for going coursing with 
his greyhounds, and he spares no cost to prick after the 


hare ; his sleeves are purfled, and his hood is fastened 
with a gold pin which is ornamented with a love-knot ; 
underneath his bald head he carries a plump face ; in 
all he is " full fat and in good point." Does any one 
suppose that the first readers of the Canterbury Tales 
did not chuckle to themselves as they recognized the 
fidelity of this portrait ? 


William Langland was a poor clerk in minor orders 
" earning a scanty pittance probably in church choir- 
or scrivener s office, with little reverence for lords and 
ladies, or the proud emblems of official pomp," but with 
keen eyes for the abuses which he saw all around him. 
No man who was not possessed of intimate knowledge 
of the contemporary state of affairs could have written 
as he did ; no man who did not possess unusual powers 
of observation and judgment could have filled in those 
details which make his picture so convincing. What 
has he to say ? He holds up pope, cardinals, bishops, 
clergy, monks, friars to contempt, and tells us plainly 
why. He brings a clear accusation against the monks 
of his day. They have departed from their ideal ; they 
have broken the constitutions of their Orders ; they 
falsify religion ; they are actuated by self-love, pride, 
and covetousness. And whether he meant it or not 
he falls into prophecy : 

There shall come a king 
And confess you religious, 
And beat you, as scripture tells, 
For breaking your rule. 


Walter Map was one of the most brilliant men of his 
time. He was a scholar, a poet, a theologian, a diplo 
matist, an ambassador ; he was Canon of St. Paul s ; 
Precentor of Lincoln : Archdeacon of Oxford. He knew 


men thoroughly, and monks not least. What has he 
to say of the monks of his time, and especially of the 
Cistercians who had departed from the good institutions 
of their founders ? 

Worse than a monk there is no friend nor sprite in hell ; 

Nothing so covetous, nor more strange to be known ; 
For if you give him aught, he may possess it well, 

But if you ask him aught, then nothing is his own. 


Gerald de Barri, better known to readers of old books 
as Giraldus Cambrensis, was Archdeacon of St. David s, 
a man who knew much of ecclesiastical life in many 
centres, a keen observer, a deep student of human 
nature. He, too, has something to say about the 
degeneracy of the Cistercians. " The Cistercian Order," 
he writes, " at first deserved praise and commendation 
from its adhering voluntarily to the original vows of 
poverty and sanctity : until ambition, the blind mother 
of mischief, was introduced . . . although [the Cister 
cians] are possessed of fine buildings, with ample revenues 
and estates, they will soon be reduced to poverty and 
destruction . . . sooner than lessen the number of one 
of the thirteen or fourteen dishes which they claim by 
right of custom, or even in a time of scarcity or famine 
recede in the smallest degree from their accustomed good 
fare, they would suffer the richest lands and the best 
buildings of the monastery to become a prey to usury, 
and the numerous poor to perish before their gates." 


On one of the old choir-stalls of St. Agatha s Abbey 
at Easby, now in the parish church of Richmond, there 
is an inscription : Decem sunt abusiones daustralium. 
The abuses were ten Costly Living ; Choice Food ; 
Noise in Cloister ; Strife in Chapter ; Disorder in Quire ; 
a Neglectful Disciple ; a Disobedient Youth ; a Lazy 


Old Man; a Headstrong Monk; a Worldly Religious. 
It is impossible to deny that when three hundred years 
had gone since the foundation of the eight Yorkshire 
houses, these various abuses were not frequently found 
amongst the Cistercians. The old austerity was dead ; 
the old simplicity scorned. We may properly acquit 
the monks of the graver moral charges so prodigally 
brought against them : there is no good evidence on 
which they could be found guilty. But discipline had 
become relaxed ; the first enthusiasm was lost ; the 
first principles were a memory, if they were even that. 
The body corporate was there, but the soul was asleep 
or dead. Yet still throughout that fifteenth century the 
outward show of monasticism was preserved. The bells 
rang out from Fountains and Rievaulx, Kirkstall and 
Byland ; the services were performed with greater pomp 
and more elaborate ritual than ever ; the abbot kept 
his state, the brethren lived lives of gentle quietude in 
the cloister ; rents came in from the far-flung lands ; 
there were difficulties and embarrassments and the 
eternal litigation, but the system still existed. It was 
old and venerable by then, and in the North of England, 
at any rate, there were few men who wished to see it 
die. Neither Wyclif nor the Lollards had made much 
impression in Yorkshire, and the folk were still in sym 
pathy with the old things and the old ways : Fountains, 
a monument of magnificence, looked as if it could never 
fall. But already the hand of the destroyer was being 
made ready to his task. 



WHILE changes not for the better had taken place 
amongst the monastic Orders, changes had also taken 
place amongst men in their ideas of the relative positions 
of Church and State. Once upon a time whoever had 
dared, in the name of the State, to lay his hand upon 
the Church, would have been met with a stern " Touch 
not mine Anointed ! " But during the fifteenth century 
men s minds experienced certain illuminating and dis 
turbing experiences. The iniquities and exactions of 
the medieval popes, the effects of the Great Schism, 
the wickedness which marked ecclesiastical life and 
conduct all over Europe, the growing impulse to national 
ism, or, as we should now call it, self-determination, 
which was increasing by leaps and bounds in England, 
impelled men to take a new view of Church government. 
As the new learning spread, men began to ask them 
selves whether the sanctity which had hung around the 
Church was as real a thing as it had been supposed to 
be. They began to use eyes and ears, and to reflect 
on what they heard and saw. And once having begun 
to look and listen, they were not slow to see and consider 
the palpable abuses which were* thick on every side. 
Prominent amongst these was the state of the monas 
teries. It is a popular error to believe that nothing was 
done in the way of reform of the monastic Orders until 
the drastic measures under Henry VIII reformed them 
once for all by sweeping them out of existence. For 



reform had been going on for more than a hundred 
years before the events of 1536-40, and it had originated 
not only in the minds of statesmen, but in those of 
Churchmen. Its necessity, indeed, was too obvious to 
be longer neglected. 


The active proceedings in the reform of the religious 
houses may be said to have begun in 1414, when the 
alien priories were handed over to the Crown, to be 
dealt with in future according to the sovereign s pleasure. 
For a long time the alien priories had been the fruitful 
cause of much discontent and annoyance. They were 
merely dependencies of foreign abbeys ; not seldom they 
were ruled by foreigners. They paid tribute to mother- 
houses on the Continent. Of those in Yorkshire, Allerton 
Mauleverer was a cell attached to the house of Mar- 
moutier, near Tours ; Burstall belonged to Aumale, in 
Normandy ; Ecclesfield was dependant on St. Wandra- 
gasille, near Rouen ; Grosmont originated from Grandi- 
mont. Parliament was constantly asked to hear com 
plaints of the considerable sums of money which were 
being sent out of the country by these alien houses to 
the foreign mother-houses. More complaints, in another 
issue, came from the bishops, who, little as their powers 
were recognized by the priories, had good opportunities 
of judging of the general laxity and incompetence of 
their rulers and of their abuse of the rights of patronage. 
More than once during repeated occasions, caused by 
foreign wars, the Crown had seized on their funds and 
estates and made the inmates remove from those houses 
which were situate near the coast. Stubbs says that 
the possessions of these priories had always been in a 
precarious position from the time of the wars under 
Edward III. But the houses were still in existence at 
the beginning of the fifteenth century, when, on the 
petition of the House of Commons, they were handed 
over to the King in perpetuity. Their immediate fate 


was not that of extinction. Some, by the payment of 
a considerable fine, were allowed to rank with the native 
convents ; others were annexed to houses, already in 
existence, which were in need of financial help ; in 
certain cases the lands were farmed out to holders who 
paid their rents direct to the Treasury. Two well- 
known educational institutions owe much to the Crown s 
absorption of these properties Eton, and All Soul s 
College at Oxford. 


The process of reformation continued it had, indeed, 
commenced before the case of the alien priories. For 
some time the bishops had been complaining of the 
abuses and irregularities which existed in many of the 
religious houses. Some of them were bankrupt. Many 
were tenanted by but a very few inmates. Most of 
those of which complaint was made were being hope 
lessly mismanaged. The bishops kept obtaining licences 
to close such houses altogether. In some instances the 
inmates were transferred to other houses. When there 
was any poor shred of endowment left, it was diverted 
to worthier purposes, usually to education. A notable 
instance of such a suppression is that of the Augustinian 
Priory of Selborne in Hampshire, of which there is a 
full account in Gilbert White s famous work. This, 
founded by Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, 
about 1232, had by 1387 so fallen away into irregularity 
that William of Wykeham, then bishop of the See, sent 
special commissioners to inquire into its state, and 
subsequently issued a series of injunctions to the prior, 
which, as given in the Notabilis Fisitatio de Seleburne, 
show how some monastic houses were being conducted 
at that time. The services were not kept up. Suspected 
and disorderly females frequented the cloister. The 
canons were ignorant and illiterate. They were given 
to wandering. They were so lost to decency that they 
slept naked in their beds. They went sporting and 


coursing, and publicly attended hunting-matches. They 
were allowing the monastic property to fall into neglect : 
most of it was notoriously dilapidated. They had 
grievously burthened the priory by granting corrodies. 
They were remiss in giving alms. They were wearing 
garments edged with costly furs, fringed gloves, and 
silken girdles trimmed with gold and silver. The sacra 
mental plate, the altar cloths and the surplices were in 
an uncleanly and disgusting condition. They had 
pawned not only plate and vestments, but the relics of 
the saints. We need go no further than that. There 
was much more, but the last offence is sufficient : when 
monks begin pawning relics of holy men it is evident 
that they have lost all sense of decency as well as of 
fitness. No doubt William of Wykeham thought so, 
too ; nevertheless, being of a kindly and fatherly nature, 
he was indulgent to these wicked Augustinians, giving 
them not only much excellent advice, but actually pay 
ing their debts for them and leaving them 100 marks 
in his will. It was all of no avail. They persisted in 
their evil courses so much so that their conduct was 
noised abroad as far as Rome : in 1417 Pope Martin V 
sent them a sharp message. They paid no more heed 
to the Pope than they had given to the bishop, and in 
1462, William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, seques 
trated their estates. Even that did no good, and in 
1485, with the approval of the Pope, he suppressed 
Selbome Priory altogether, and gave what remained of 
its property to Magdalen College at Oxford, which he 
had founded some years previously. 


It is a great mistake to think that popes and bishops 
did nothing towards the reform of the religious houses : 
in that fifteenth century they did a great deal, only to 
find themselves faced with the difficulties which always 
confront any one who endeavours to disturb vested 
interests. Selborne Priory was not the only house with 


which. William of Wykeham had difficulty : his injunc 
tions and censures to the ancient abbey of Hyde (formally 
called Newminster, and founded by Edward the Elder, 
son of Alfred the Great, in 901) were serious and lengthy. 
According to the visitation reports of the diocese of 
Norwich in the fifteenth century, the condition of the 
houses in East Anglia was deplorable : those of Wymond- 
ham and Walsingham (one a Benedictine house, the 
other an Augustinian) were particularly notorious. 
Of Wymondham the report is that in the entire 
course of its existence, nothing good can be said of it. 
Of Walsingham the evidence is worse. The prior is 
living a dissolute and scandal-giving life. He has robbed 
the treasury of jewels and money. He keeps a pro 
fessional jester. He is believed to have an illicit con 
nexion with the wife of one of his serving-men. He 
behaves towards his fellow-religious with violence and 
brutality. They themselves are given, as one would 
expect, to dissipation and quarrelling ; there is scarcely 
the pretence of religion amongst them : they frequent 
the town taverns ; they are so fond of drink that they 
have broken into the prior s cellar and stolen his wine ; 
they frequently sit up all night drinking ; they go 
hunting and hawking. And, naturally, the boys in the 
school connected with the house are mutinous, and will 
not learn ; and the servants are insolent and rebellious, 
and do their work as they list. 


All this was bad enough, but it was as nothing in 
comparison with a case brought to the notice of the 
authorities at Rome towards the end of the century. 
For some time the condition of things at the great 
Benedictine house of St. Albans had been so bad that 
it had become a notorious, public scandal. Gasquet, 
in his book on The Greater Abbeys of England, dismisses 
the episode lightly, hinting that politics lay at the root 
of the complaints brought against the house, and that 



as the abbot was merely admonished and not turned out, 
the evidence against him cannot have been proved. 
But the evidence is clear enough, and that the abbot 
was permitted to retain his governorship only shows 
once more how difficult it is to interfere with vested 
interests. Nor should it be forgotten that in this case, 
as in those of William of Wykeham and Selborne, and 
the Bishop of Norwich and Walsingham, there is no 
question of falsification, design, or prejudice, such as 
certainly arose in the affairs of 1536-40, when foul 
charges were deliberately invented against innocent 
communities by Cromwell and his agents. In these 
fifteenth-century cases the charges were the result of 
careful episcopal examination of evidence. In the case 
of St. Albans the charges were brought by the Papal 
Legate, John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate 
of All England, Legate of the Apostolic See, who was 
expressly charged by Pope Innocent VIII to inquire 
into the reports which had been placed before the Roman 
Curia as to the state of things existing at the famous 
abbey which ranked so high amongst the English Bene 
dictine houses, and possessed cells at several places, and 
notably at Belvoir, Hertford, Pembroke, Binham, and 
Wallingford, and even as far north as Tynemouth. Now 
the charges of Archbishop Morton, in his capacity of 
Papal Legate, are explicit. He does not say that he has 
merely heard of these matters as rumours, vaguenesses, 
which "may or may not be true ; he says they are 
" publicly notorious " ; " brought before us upon the 
testimony of witnesses worthy of credit " ; all through his 
series of terrible charges he does not say " you are said 
to have " ; instead, evidently having no doubt in the 
matter himself, he uses the term "you have" And 
what were the charges ? Far worse than any brought 
by Layton or Lee fifty years later, though they were 
as bad as their crafty and malicious minds could invent. 
They are worth all the more consideration because of 
the fact that Morton was acting for the papacy : all 


history tells us that the papacy, as a governing power, 
will move heaven and earth to avoid scandal. But here 
it was impossible to avoid scandal : the scandal was 
flaming on every house-top in the neighbourhood. And 
so the archbishop tells the abbot what he has done 
not what he is charged with doing, but what, according 
to unassailable evidence, he has actually committed, 
and allowed his monks to commit. It is not good read 
ing, but there it is, and no excuse can wipe it out. 
First of all, the abbot is notoriously guilty of simony, 
usury, and dilapidation of the goods of the community. 
The measure and form of religious life have become 
relaxed. Hospitality and almsgiving are neglected. The 
ancient rule of the Order is deserted. Not a few of the 
brethren are leading lives of lasciviousness nay, are 
not afraid " to defile the holy places by infamous inter 
course with nuns." The abbot himself has admitted a 
notorious harlot, one Elena Germyn, to be a nun in the 
priory of Pray, within the jurisdiction ; one of his monks, 
Father Thomas Sudbury, is publicly and notoriously 
associating with her : other monks of St. Albans resort 
to the same place, " as to a public brothel." A similar 
state of things exists at Sapwell. All this is bad, but 
there is worse if that is possible to follow. Let us 
give it in the Papal Legate s own words, taking particular 
note of the positiveness and directness of the charges. 
" You have dilapidated the common property ; you 
have made away with the jewels ; the copses, the woods, 
the underwood, almost all the oaks and other forest trees, 
to the value of eight thousand marks and more, you have 
made to be cut down without distinction, and they have 
by you been sold and alienated. The brethren of the 
abbey neglect the service of God altogether. They live 
with harlots and mistresses publicly and continuously, 
within the precincts of the monastery and without. 
Some of them, who are covetous of honour and promo 
tion, and desirous of pleasing your cupidity, have stolen 
and made away with the chalices and other jewels of 


the church. They have even sacrilegiously extracted 
the precious stones from the very shrine of St. Alban ; 
and you have not punished these men, but have rather 
knowingly supported and maintained them. If any of 
your brethren be living justly and religiously, if any be 
wise and virtuous, these you straightway depress and 
hold in hatred." There is more of it, but this is sufficient. 
Let it be remembered that Archbishop Morton was a 
remarkably astute and clever man, the personal friend 
of an exceptionally clever king Henry VII and that 
before ever he set down these charges against a powerful 
abbot, who was also a peer of the realm, and took prece 
dence of the bishops, he would take good care to make 
sure that they were true in substance and in fact. In 
the whole history of the bad features of English monas- 
ticism, the St. Albans case stands out as pre-eminently 
the worst, and it is a good thing that the inquiry into 
it was directed by express orders from Rome : it will 
for ever bear the stamp and seal of papal direction. 
Yet, in this case, little was done. The abbot was 
admonished to set his house in order. At an earlier 
period, Grosseteste, when Bishop of Lincoln, had deposed 
many heads of houses for far less serious breaches of 
discipline, but Morton, despite his unqualified phrase 
ology, evidently considered that the offender would be 
properly punished by censure, and so left him to reform. 


But now came upon the scene a reformer of a different 
stamp the man who, had things gone better with him, 
might have reformed the Church to such purpose, and 
in such thorough and efficient manner, that the whole 
course of subsequent history might have been altered, 
and all the troubles of the last four centuries avoided. 
In all Europe there was no man who could have so 
reformed and restored and rebuilt as Thomas Wolsey 
could, had it been permitted him to carry out the task 
to which, without doubt, he set his mind from an early 


period of his career. We have all become so accustomed 
to the conventional picture of Wolsey, so used to Shake 
speare s travesty of him, as to forget the real history 
and real significance of his life and character. Few 
greater Englishmen have ever lived : few have been 
more misunderstood. " Not without reason," says 
Creighton, " has the story of Wolsey s fall passed into 
a parable of the heartlessness of the world. For Wolsey 
lived for the world as few men have ever done ; not 
for the larger world of intellectual thought or spiritual 
aspiration, but for the actual, immediate world of affairs. 
He limited himself to its problems, but within its limits 
he took a wider and juster view of the problems of his 
time than any English statesman has ever done. For 
politics in the largest sense, comprising all the relations 
of the nation at home and abroad, Wolsey had a capacity 
which amounted to genius, and it is doubtful if this can 
be said of any other Englishman. There have been 
many capable administrators, many excellent organizers, 
many who bravely faced the difficulties of their time, 
many who advocated particular reforms and achieved 
definite results. But Wolsey aimed at doing all these 
things together and more. Taking England as he found 
her, he aimed at developing all her latent possibilities, 
and leaving Europe to follow in her train. . . . He was 
the last English statesman of the old school, which 
regarded England not as a separate nation, but as an 
integral part of Western Christendom. He did not look 
upon questions as being solely English questions ; he 
did not aim merely at reforming English monasteries or 
asserting a new position for the English Church. But 
he thought that England was ripe for practically carry 
ing out reforms which had long been talked of, and 
remedying abuses which had long been lamented ; and 
he hoped that England in these respects would serve 
as a model to the rest of Europe." 



Many writers have accused Wolsey of scheming for 
the papacy : Bishop Creighton believes that he was 
honest when he affirmed that he was not greatly anxious 
for it. But he was certainly anxious for the full legatine 
powers which he got, dreaming perhaps of " a future 
in which the Roman pontiff would practically resign 
his claims over the northern churches to an English 
delegate, who might become his equal or superior in 
actual power." And having been endowed with his 
special legatine powers he without doubt contemplated 
and partly set about the reform of the English Church 
by a combination of ecclesiastical and royal authority. 
The time seemed ripe. " The rising middle class," says 
Creighton, " had many grievances to complain of from 
the ecclesiastical courts ; the new landlords looked with 
contempt on the management of monastic estates ; the 
new learning mocked at the ignorance of the clergy, 
and scoffed at the superstitions of a simpler past which 
had survived unduly into an age when criticism was 
coming into fashion. The power of the Church had 
been great in days when the State was rude and the 
clergy were the natural leaders of men. Now the State 
was powerful and enjoyed men s confidence ; they looked 
to the King to satisfy their material aspirations, and the 
Church had not been very successful in keeping their 
spiritual aspirations alive. . . . There was a general 
desire to see a readjustment of many matters in which 
the Church was concerned." 


An incident which occurred in 1515 showed which 
way the wind was blowing in this matter of reform. 
Four years previously Parliament had passed an Act 
which did away with sanctuary and benefit of clergy 
in the case of those accused of murder : this was felt 
to be a dangerous innovation by some old-fashioned 


Churchmen, and when Parliament met in 1515 the 
Abbot of Winchcombe preached a sermon before it in 
which he denounced the Act as an impious measure. 
The King wisely submitted the question to a commission 
of noblemen and clergy. During their discussion, Stan- 
dish, Warden of the Friars Minor, put his finger on the 
true point : the Act, he said, was not against the 
-liberties of the Church, but for the welfare of the whole 
realm. The opposing party replied that it was contrary 
to the decretals. Standish was quick with a pertinent 
retort so, he said, was the non-residence of bishops, 
but that was common enough. Then the clerical party 
fell back upon texts of Holy Scripture : Standish beat 
them at their own game. The temporal lords who sat 
on the commission and formed the majority, decided in 
favour of the Act, and ordered the Abbot of Winch- 
combe to apologize for his sermon. Then the bishops 
turned on Standish and summoned him before Convoca 
tion : Standish appealed to the Crown. Once more 
Henry appointed a commission, the members of which 
eventually put forth the significant decision that the 
King could hold a Parliament without the spiritual peers, 
who, indeed, had no right there save by reason of their 
temporal possessions : moreover, they said. Convocation 
by proceeding against a royal commissioner, had rendered 
itself liable to the penalties of prsemunire. Henry had 
the bishops before him and " read them a lesson " ; 
Wolsey was the only one who, says Creighton, saw the 
seriousness of the occasion. He knelt before the King, 
interceded for the clergy, declared that they designed 
nothing against the royal prerogative, but were only 
anxious for the rights of the Church, and begged that 
the question might be referred to the Pope. But even 
then, years before the break with Rome, Henry would 
have nothing to do with papal intervention in such a 
matter. " We are by God s grace," said he, " King of 
England, and have no superior but God ; we will main 
tain the rights of the Crown like our predecessor : your 


decrees you break and interpret at your pleasure ; but 
we will not consent to your interpretation any more 
than our predecessors have done." The bishops heard 
and " went their way in silence." 


What were Wolsey s ideas of reform ? Creighton 
summarizes them in a passage which we may advan 
tageously epitomize. He knew that the position of the 
Church was precarious ; that it would have to give 
way. He wished it to give way with dignity ; to be 
pliant ; so that it might gain time for carrying out 
gradual reform. His ideas of reform were more those 
of a statesman than of an ecclesiastic. The Church 
was too wealthy and too powerful for the work it was 
doing. In former times it had done the work of the 
State ; now the State was strong enough to do its own 
work. The institutions which had once been- useful 
were useful no longer. Monasticism, as it had existed 
of late, had had its day. Its tenure of land at a time 
when commercial competition was becoming increasingly 
active was viewed with jealousy ; as great landholders 
the monks must go. But he did not deceive himself 
about the practical difficulties in the way of reform, 
he knew how closely the ecclesiastical system was inter 
woven with English society ; he knew the strength of 
the system. The first reform to be carried out must 
be in the direction of raising the standard of clerical 
intelligence. And so he set himself " to divert some of 
the revenues of the Church from the maintenance of idle 
and ignorant monks to the education of a body of learned 

10. THE PAPAL BULL, 1524. 

In 1524 Wolsey obtained from Pope Clement VII 
powers which enabled him to suppress the monastery 
of St. Frideswide in Oxford, and to devote its revenues 
to the founding of a college : soon afterwards he secured 


a Bull which, enabled him to close all English religious 
houses possessing fewer than seven inmates. This 
seemed a very small and a very reasonable matter, yet 
it was unpopular amongst the folk of that day, for many 
felt it to be the beginning of worse things, and there 
were some who foresaw the sure and inevitable end : 
it was as Fuller remarks the measure made " the 
forest of religious foundations in England to shake, 
justly fearing that the king would fell the oaks when 
the cardinal had begun to cut the underwood." " It 
would, perhaps," says Creighton, " have required too 
much wisdom for the monks to see that submission to 
the cardinal s pruning-knife was the only means of 
averting the clang of the royal axe." Wblsey used his 
pruning-knife during the next four years. Between 1524 
and 1528 he suppressed twenty-nine of the smaller 
houses one house of the Premonstratensians ; three of 
the Cluniacs ; fourteen of the Augustinian canons ; 
eight of the Benedictines ; and three of the Benedictine 
nuns. One of the nunneries was that of Pray, or St. 
Mary de Pratis, which had gained such unholy and 
unsavoury notoriety at the time of the St. Albans 
scandal; another was the priory of Littlemore, near 
Oxford, where Newman, three hundred years later, set 
up a semi-monastic institution as a place of retreat for 
himself and a chosen band of followers. Each of these 
twenty-nine houses had, of course, but a very few 
inmates at the time of its suppression. 


One of the houses thus suppressed was a cell at 
Rumburgh in Suffolk, belonging to the great Benedictine 
abbey of St. Mary s at York, and in September 1528, 
the abbot, Edmund Whalley (1521-30), wrote a long 
letter to Wolsey about the whole matter, which is 
printed by Mr. Clay in the Suppression Papers of the 
Yorkshire Monasteries, and forms a singularly instructive 
and significant document. 


September 20, 1528 

Pleaseth your grace to understaunde, that I, your pore oratour, 
have lately receyvid certen lettres frome our priour of Rome- 
burgh, with other of our brethren there beinge, by whose purpote 
I perceyve that your graces pleasure ys to suppresse the said 
priorye of Romeburgh, and also to unite, annex, and improper 
the same unto the churche of St. Peters in Ipiswiche ; and for the 
accomplishment of the same, as they wryte xinto me, your officers 
came to the said priory the xjth day of the present moneth ; and 
there, after the redinge of certen lettres, commissional not onely 
of your grace, but also of our holy father, the pope, and of our 
soveraigne lorde the kynge, for the same purpose directed, 
intered into the same priory, and that done, toke away as well 
as the goodes moveable of the said priory, beinge a membre of 
our monastery, and gyven unto us by Alen Niger, summe tyme 
erele of Richemound and our secounde refounder, by whose gyf te 
next unto the kinge s grace we have had moost benefyttes, 
laundes, and profettes gyven us, by reason whereof we be most 
notably charged with massez, suffragies, and other almouse 
dedes for hys benefittes to us most charytably exhibite, bot also 
certen munimentes, evidences, and specialities, tochinge and 
apperteynynge unto our monastery, which we had lately sent 
unto our said priour and brethren there, for the tryall of certen 
laundes and rightus which lately did depende betwixt us and 
certen men of worshipp in Cambridge shyre in contraversie, and 
yet doith depende undecised, and for none other purpose. In 
consideracion wherefore, yf yt might please your grace, foras 
much as we have a greate parte of our laundes graunted unto 
us by reason of the said Alen Niger, whereby we be daily charged 
as doith appere by comparicion made betwixt us and the said 
Alen Niger, and also confirmed by Boniface the iijth anno sui 
pont tercio under certen censures and paynes with clausis diroga- 
torye, as most largely by hys said graunte doith appere, that 
the said pryory might consiste and abyde as a membre unto 
our monastery, as yt haith done this thre hundred years and 
more, with your grace s favour, your grace shall not onely put 
me and my brether to a greate quietude, bot also take away 
many sundry doubties and greate perels of the residew of our 
laundes graunted unto us by the said erele which be right 
notable, yf the same suppression or alienation no farther precede ; 
and besydes that, ministre unto us a more notable acte than ye 


had gyven us ten tymes more laundes than unto the same priory 
doth apperteyne and belonge ; for of truth the rents and revenuez 
unto the same priory belonging doith very lyttill surmounte the 
sum of xxxf i sterlinge, as far as I perceyve. And yet towardes 
your speciale, honourable, and laudable purpose concernynge 
the erection and foundacion of the said college and school, I am 
right intensly contented, for your tenderinge of the premisses 
to gyve unto your grace ccc markes sterlinge, which shall be 
deliverd unto your grace immediately. Most hummely desyring 
your grace to accept my pore mynde towardes your most noble 
acte, which should be far better yf that my lytell pore [estate] 
thereunto wolde extende, protestinge ever that yf your grace s 
pleasure be to have the said priory to the purpose above recyted, 
that then with all my study, diligence, and labour, I shall con 
tinually indever my self for the accompleshment of the same, 
accordengly as my dutie ys. Trustinge ever that your grace 
will se our pore monastery no further hyndred, bot that we may 
in tyme commyng lyve lyke religiouse men, and serve Almighty 
God with our nombre determinate, and hereafter avoide both 
in law and good conscience all perells that thereby may ensue ; 
and also pray for our founders, benefactours, and your good 
grace, accordingly to the foundacion of our monastery, as our 
dutie ys ; and so knowith Jhesus, who preserve your most noble 
grace in high honour and greate prosperytie long to continew. 
Frome our monastery of Yourke the xxth day of Septcmbre. 

Your most bounden bedeman, 

EDMOND, Abbot of Yourke 


Put into a few words, the abbot s letter means this if 
Wolsey will leave Rumburgh alone, he will give him three 
hundred marks. Wolsey doubtless got many such letters 
and offers : in some places, and notably at Bayham, 
in Sussex, his action in suppressing these small founda 
tions was much resented by the surrounding populations. 
But he was not the man to be turned from any purpose 
taken in hand, and the suppression continued, and 
would doubtless have been considerably extended but 
for the event of 1529. In the interval which elapsed 
between the granting of the Pope s Bull and Wolsey s 


fall, the reformer did good service by devoting the 
proceeds of the suppression to education. His plan 
was to build and endow a great college in his old univer 
sity of Oxford, and another in his native place, Ipswich. 
That of Ipswich was doubtless intended to benefit the 
youth of East Anglia, for which part of the kingdom 
Wolsey seems to have cherished considerable affection. 
That its folk held him in great estimation and were 
minded to do him honour, seems to be proved by an 
old record in one of the town books of King s Lynn, 
in Norfolk, which is worth quoting, as showing how 
great ecclesiastics were entreated in those days by 
prosperous corporations : " Memorandum that the Mon 
day the xxta day of August in the xiith year of the 
reigne of Kyng Henry the VIHtf, the tyme of Robert 
Gerves, Mayer of Lenn, the Most Reverent Father in 
God Thomas Lord Cardynall Legate a Latere Arche- 
bysshope of York, Primate and Chaunceller of England, 
with the Bysshope of Ely and a Bysshope of Ireland, 
with many knyghtes and esquyers com to Lenn. Which 
Lord Cardynall was met on the caunsey beyond Gay- 
wood Bridge with the Mayer and Commons of Lenn. 
Which Lord Cardynall was presented at Halynns Place 
with xx& dosen brede, vi soys of ale, xv barelles of 
beer, a tonn and xii galon of wine, ii oxen, xx& shepe, 
x signettes, xii capons, iii botores [bitterns], iii 
shorrlerdes [spoonbills], xiii plovers, viii pykes, and 
iii tenches, and on the next Wednsday after the seyd 
Lord Cardynall with the forseyd Bisshops, knightes, 
and esquyers departed, and the forseyd Mayer and 
Commonaltye brought the seyd Lord Cardynall beyound 
Hardewyk churche and ther departed from the seyd 
Lord Cardynall with great laude and thankes. Summa 
Totalis : xxiift. vid., payd for the charges of the seyd 
present, with rewardes given to diverse officers of the 
seyd Lord Cardynall." Perhaps Wolsey had good treat 
ment of this sort in mind when he designed to do some 
thing at Ipswich for the youth of Suffolk and Norfolk. 


But his college at Ipswich came to nothing, falling when 
he fell, and no man took up his work. 


With his scheme at Oxford he had some prosperity, 
and saw the beginnings of a mighty institution which 
under other hands than his developed into the Christ 
Church that stands before modern eyes. Around 
Cardinal College, as he intended it should be called, 
Wolsey meant to gather the new life of the university. 
The new impulses, the new learning, the freshening of 
intellectual movement were welcome to him ; while 
other men of his age stood aloof, or openly opposed, 
Wolsey was well inclined, knowing that the world moves 
forward and will not be stayed in its course. He was, 
says Creighton, " well adapted to hold the balance 
between the old and the new learning. He had been 
trained in the theology of the schools, and was a student 
of St. Thomas Aquinas ; but he had learned by the 
training of life to understand the new ideas ; he grasped 
their importance, and he foresaw their triumph. He 
was a friend of the band of English scholars who brought 
to Oxford the study of Greek, and he sympathized with 
the intellectual aspirations of Grocyn, Colet, More, and 
Erasmus." Wolsey, as we know, intended to completely 
reorganize the teaching systems of both Oxford and 
Cambridge, and to provide both universities with pro 
fessors drawn from amongst the first scholars of Europe, 
but here again his fall put an end to his schemes, as 
had happened at Ipswich, and as happened in Oxford 
in respect to his college. Nevertheless, he set Cardinal 
College on a sure foundation, intending that its purpose 
should be civil as well as ecclesiastical, and at his fall, 
when all his many possessions suffered confiscation, he 
pleaded for nothing so much or earnestly as that his 
work at Oxford should be spared and carried to com 



That Wolsey would have seriously carried out his 
work of reform in the Church had time and opportunity 
been allowed him, we cannot doubt any more than that 
he seriously intended to put the monastic institutions 
on a new footing. It would be idle to speculate on 
how far his reforms would have gone, but we may 
hazard the supposition that knowing life as he did, and 
recognizing that monasticism must always have its 
place in the Christian economy, he would never have 
swept the religious houses completely out of existence, 
but rather would have considerably reduced their 
numbers, relieved them of their superabundance of 
material possessions, and insisted on their return to 
the original conditions of the various rules. Wolsey 
knew that while men are men there will always be those 
amongst us to whom the monastic life appeals. Such 
men are with us in this twentieth century ; such men 
will always be with us ; they have their rights, as 
citizens, to cultivate their inclinations, to go apart, to 
live the life of the cloister so long as they do no harm 
to the State. The communities of Wolsey s time were 
doing infinite harm to the State and to the Church by 
their over-possession of land, and their perversion from 
their original purpose ; he probably saw their danger 
more than he ever revealed, and it is likely that had he 
been permitted to exercise his rule as Archbishop of 
York, his actions in the Northern Province would have 
prevented much, if not all, of what followed upon his 
arrest at Cawood. 


When Wolsey was bidden to go to his diocese from 
Richmond Lodge, whither he had removed from the 
damp climate of Esher, he had been Archbishop of 
York (if we disregard the temporary lapse of his deprival 
at his fall, which, after all, did not last long, as he was 


restored to his benefice in February 1530) for sixteen 
years, having been promoted from his bishopric of 
Lincoln in 1514, in succession to Cardinal Bain bridge, 
who died in that year at Rome. Yet he had never 
been near York, and into York itself he never went, 
unless, indeed, he paid a secret visit to the city 
during his brief stay at Cawood. Receiving a broad 
hint that his presence in the South was remarkably 
distasteful to the Duke of Norfolk, then coming into 
favour, he announced his desire to set out, if the neces 
sary funds were furnished him. Something not much 
was supplied by the Lords of the Council, and in 
Passion Week of 1530 he began his journey. He spent 
that summer at Southwell Manor, in Nottinghamshire, 
where the Archbishops of York had one of their many 
residences, and if we are to believe contemporary 
evidence leaving that of his biographer, George Caven 
dish, on one side he began to acquit himself marvel 
lously well in the discharge of his episcopal functions. 
It may be that in that quiet retreat his mind went 
back to the day whereon, in Westminster Abbey, in 
the presence of archbishops and bishops, abbots and 
priors, and all the magnates of the realm, he received 
his Cardinal s hat at the hands of Warham, Archbishop 
of Canterbury, and heard Colet, Dean of St. Paul s, 
preach a remarkable sermon, wherein were a few 
sentences directly addressed to the new Prince of the 
Church. " Let not one in so proud a position," said 
Colet, turning to Wolsey, " made most illustrious by the 
dignity of such an honour, be puffed up by its greatness. 
But remember that our Saviour, in His own person, 
said to His disciples, I came not to be ministered unto, 
but to minister, and He who is least amongst you shall 
be greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, and again, He 
who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles 
himself shall be exalted. . . . My Lord Cardinal, be 
glad, and enforce yourself always to do and execute 
righteousness to rich and poor, with mercy and truth." 



If, in his retreat at Southwell, Wolsey remembered 
Colet s admonitions, we have a key to what was said of 
him in a pamphlet published in 1536, wherein his beha 
viour while in Nottinghamshire is described. " Who," 
asks the writer, " was less beloved in the North than 
my Lord Cardinal before he was amongst them ? Who 
better beloved after he had been there awhile ? He 
gave bishops a right good example, how they might 
win men s hearts ! There were few holy days but he 
would ride five or six miles from his house, now to this 
parish church, now to that, and there caused one of his 
doctors to make a sermon unto the people. He sat 
amongst them and said Mass before all the parish ; he 
saw why churches were made ; he began to restore 
them to their right and proper use ; he brought his 
dinner with him, and bade divers of the parish to it. 
He inquired whether there were any debate or grudge 
between any of them. If there were, after dinner he 
sent for the parties to the church and made them all 
one." This course of conduct continued at Scrooby, 
further north, to which he removed before autumn ; 
his episcopal activity manifested itself anew when he 
set out from Scrooby for Cawood, having since he left 
Richmond scraped together enough money to discharge 
the fees of his installation at York. All the way through 
Yorkshire he was busied with confirmations ; at Nostell 
he was confirming candidates from the surrounding 
neighbourhood from eight in the morning until four in 
the afternoon ; at Ferrybridge he confirmed two hundred 
children who awaited him on the village green. That 
very evening he reached Cawood and before many days 
were over left it again, a prisoner, to die at Leicester. 


Had Wolsey and Colet and More lived under a different 
king, the Reformation in England might have been 


wrought under different circumstances. The country 
might have been spared violence and cruelty and the 
Terror which hung blood-red over it during the last 
phase of the reign of Henry VIII. The reformation of 
the monastic Orders might have been effected in wise, 
salutary, and kindly fashion. But that was not to be. 
If it was in the order of Divine Providence that it was 
not to be, then one may observe, in all reverence, that 
Divine Providence occasionally makes use of fearful 
instruments for working its design. One of these instru 
ments is about to appear on the scene the most remark 
able, most extraordinary, most sinister figure that has 
ever crossed the stage of English history. To this day, 
when he has been dust and ashes for nigh four hundred 
years, one draws one s breath and stands spellbound, 
more with wonder than with fear, as one contemplates 
the cold, fell purpose and relentless policy of Thomas 



CAVENDISH, the faithful servant and affectionate bio 
grapher of Cardinal Wolsey, tells us that, being in 
attendance upon his fallen master at Esher, what time 
the great man s fortunes had sunk so low that he had 
been obliged to borrow dishes to eat his meat in, he 
chanced on AH Hallows Day, 1529, to go into the Great 
Chamber of the palace, and there found Thomas Cromwell 
with a primer in his hand, saying Our Lady Mattins. 
While he said his prayers the tears ran down his cheeks, 
whereupon Cavendish inquired as to the reason of his 
sorrow. Cromwell answered that he was like to lose 
all that he had toiled for, all the days of his life, for 
rendering true and diligent service to Wolsey, from 
whom he had so far never had any promotion to the 
increase of his living. But, he presently added, he 
would ride that afternoon to London and to the Court, 
and there using a phrase which was habitual with him 
he would either make or mar. Cavendish answered 
that in his opinion Cromwell would yet do very well, 
and so left him. But before Cromwell could depart 
a significant matter arose. Wolsey had no money 
wherewith to pay the servants. He spoke to Cromwell 
of his difficulty : Cromwell answered that the Cardinal 
had about him at that moment many chaplains who 
had profited well in his service ; let them now lend to 
their lord in his necessity, lest the world hold them in 
indignation and hatred for their abominable ingratitude. 



After which he had the yeomen and chaplains into the 
chamber where he and Wolsey stood, and after some 
words from the Cardinal addressed them himself in like 
terms to those he had just used, and to make his senti 
ments good, pulled out five pounds in gold, remarking 
that the chaplains were better able to give a pound than 
he a penny. Thereupon, says Cavendish, some gave 
ten pounds, and some ten marks, and some a hundred 
shillings, as their means would afford, and so Wolsey 
paid his servants a quarter s wages and board wages for 
a month, and Cromwell, once more remarking that he 
would go to London and make or mar, took horse and 
rode away on his mission. His clerk, Sir Ralph Sadler, 
rode with him so, too, did those secret designs and 
thoughts of which Thomas Cromwell was full, and was 
an adept at keeping to himself. 


While he rides to London, intent on making or mar 
ring, let us turn back and inquire as to who Thomas 
Cromwell is. There is a good deal of mystery about 
him. He has been known for some time as one of the 
Cardinal s agents a sharp, shrewd, astute, cunning man 
of business, who has been employed in conducting 
various affairs, and has a certain reputation amongst 
those who have been brought into contact with Wolsey s 
establishment. He has always steadily pushed on in 
life, and from very humble beginnings. In truth, he 
is the son of one Walter Cromwell, a man of not over- 
good character, who carried on two or three businesses 
at Putney, being a smith, a brewer, and a fuller of 
cloth, and whose family had come to the Putney- 
Wimbledon district from Nottinghamshire, where it had 
once been of distinction and even dignity. Walter 
Cromwell, who was sometimes called Smyth, was Con 
stable of Putney in 1495, and owned a good deal of 
property in the place at one time. But he was a person 
of " most quarrelsome and riotous character," and con- 


stable though he was in his time, was frequently brought 
before the local magistrates. Between 1475 and 1501 
he was fined forty-eight times for breaking the assize 
of ale. He was frequently drunk. In 1477 he was fined 
for a violent assault on one William Michell ; he was 
more than once in trouble for cutting the bushes on 
Putney Heath. There is, indeed, much more known 
of Walter Cromwell than of the early days of his famous 
son of those days there is next to nothing known. 
Presumably, considering what his powers were in later 
years, Thomas Cromwell received at least the elements 
of a good education, which his sharpness of intellect 
helped him to improve as he grew older, but where he 
got it, and when, no one knows. He is said to have 
run away from home, having quarrelled with his father. 
This seems to be extremely probable. He is also said 
to have been very ill-behaved when young. Foxe, the 
martyrologist, says that Thomas Cromwell told Arch 
bishop Cranmer that he, Cromwell, had been a ruffian 
in his younger days. But all that we know which is 
certain is that in his youth Thomas Cromwell went out 
of England, and for some time lived on the Continent. 
What he did there is not very clearly made out to us; 
Cardinal Pole, who knew him well, and wrote some 
account of him in his Apologia ad, Carolum Quintum, 
says that he became a mercenary in Italy. Bandello, 
an Italian writer, and Foxe both agree that he was 
present at the Battle of the Garigliano in December 
1503, in the service of the French Army. Between that 
year and 1512, according to Pole, whom Mr. Merriman 
(Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell) considers to give 
the most probable account of his doings at this period, 
he engaged in mercantile pursuits in Italy, and was for 
some time an accountant at Venice ; we hear of him, 
too, as having been in Antwerp. And there is good 
reason for believing that about 1510 he was in Rome, 
and there managed to ingratiate himself with Pope 
Julius II. That he was well acquainted with Italy 


there is no doubt nor is there any doubt either that 
while he was there he made himself familiar with the 
writings of Machiavelli. 


According to a letter written in 1536 by one George 
Elyot, a mercer, recalling himself to Cromwell, its 
recipient was engaged in trade at Middelburg, in the 
Netherlands, in 1512. Elyot reminds him of the Syngs- 
son Mart there in that year. But about that time he 
seems to have returned to England, married Elizabeth 
Wykys, daughter of one who had been gentleman-usher 
to Henry VII, and settled down in London as a merchant 
in wool and cloth. He probably got money with his 
wife ; he was certainly well-to-do when he entered 
Wolsey s service. But before that he had become a 
solicitor, practising law as well as selling cloth and wool. 
" The strange combination of employments in which 
Cromwell was engaged," remarks Mr. Merriman, " fitted 
in well with the peculiar versatility of the man, and 
brought him into close contact with diverse sorts of 
men, in diverse conditions of life." But of the actual 
events of his life at this time we know nothing. Between 
1512 and 1520 there is not a single trustworthy docu 
ment concerning him. Numerous statements have been 
made as to his adventures during these years as that 
his connexion with Wolsey began in 1514; that he 
first met Wolsey in France ; that Lord Henry Percy 
introduced him .to Wolsey : none of these are founded 
on any reliable grounds. But it may be that Mr. 
Phillips, who made many researches in the Wimbledon 
Court Rolls, and published his results in the Antiquary , 
is right in saying that Thomas Cromwell owed his intro 
duction to Wolsey to his cousin Robert Cromwell, who 
was Vicar of Battersea, and well known to the Cardinal. 
In 1520 and 1523 we get accurate information as to the 
relations between Wolsey and Cromwell. In the first 
year Cromwell is mentioned by Wolsey in connexion 


with an appeal case to Rome, between the Vicar of 
Cheshunt and the Prioress of the Benedictine Convent 
there ; in the second he drafted a petition to Wolsey 
in Chancery on behalf of one John Palsgrave. Mean 
while his business as wool and cloth merchant in the 
City had prospered considerably ; as to his practice as 
a solicitor, it is evident from the letters addressed to 
him, which, are still in existence, that it was a very 
good one, and that he did a good deal in conveyancing, 
and in collecting debts. In addition to these things, 
he without doubt carried on the business of a money 
lender ; there is evidence that he charged high rates 
of interest. Altogether, between 1512, when he settled 
in London, and 1524, when he became definitely asso 
ciated with Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, as merchant, 
solicitor, and usurer, did very well indeed, and was a 
man of considerable means. And though we do not 
know how he got his seat, we do know that in 1523 he 
was a Member of Parliament, and in the session of that 
year made an eventful speech (a copy exists in the 
Public Record Office) which was remarkable for two 
reasons first, that it was in opposition to Wolsey s 
request for a subsidy to enable the King to carry on 
his French war ; second, that it adumbrated the policy 
which Cromwell himself carried out in later years. It 
is more than probable that this speech a masterly one, 
showing its maker s undoubted powers and abilities 
brought Cromwell to the King s notice : moreover, it 
was so full of cunning and well-contrived flattery of 
King, nobles, and people that it could scarcely fail to 
make him popular. Certainly, in this Parliament the 
first which Henry had summoned for eight years the 
future Vicar-General laid the foundations of his sub 
sequent high estate. 


From 1524 we hear no more of Cromwell as tradesman ; 
probably he relinquished his business of merchant in 


wool and cloth. But we begin to hear much more of 
him in connexion with law. In that year he became a 
member of Gray s Inn, and was appointed a Subsidy 
Commissioner in Middlesex. He began to be widely 
known in relation to Wolsey s affairs ; it was evidently 
recognized that it was well to approach the master 
through the servant ; it becomes usual to speak of 
Cromwell as " Councillor to my Lord Legate " ; he is 
addressed as "The Right Worshipful Mr. Cromwell." 
Doubtless Wolsey, who knew men, recognized in this 
man, who, adventurer though he was, possessed enormous 
talents and capabilities, a rare power of understanding 
and dealing with human nature, a clever aptitude to 
business "affairs, and a wonderful trick of readiness and 
firmness in carrying out what most men would have 
found it difficult to perform in the face of such opposi 
tion. And so when the task of suppressing the small 
monasteries, under Clement VII s Bull, came to be 
apportioned, Wolsey appointed Cromwell one of three 
commissioners, the other two being William Burbank 
and Sir William Gascoigne. These two appear to have 
been more or less of figureheads ; the real work was 
done by Cromwell. Thus he became well acquainted 
with the methods which were so familiar later on, when 
his own agents did similar work the sudden descent 
on the house, the examination of its rulers and inmates ; 
the turning out of the poorly pensioned religious ; the 
seizure of goods and furniture ; the stripping of lead 
from roofs ; the selling of lands and properties ; in all 
this he was the directing figure in the case of the nine- 
and-twenty houses suppressed by Wolsey. His was 
also the leading part in the business negotiations relat 
ing to the educational foundation at Ipswich and the 
beginnings of Cardinal College at Oxford : all this labour 
he took off Wolsey s hands, and according to the avail 
able records, he must have toiled ceaselessly. 



How far were his hands clean ? According to Mr. 
Merriman, who has given more labour to the study of 
Thomas Cromwell s life than any previous student of 
its history, they were remarkably dirty. " Cromwell s 
efficiency," he says, ". . . was only equalled by his 
notorious accessibility to bribes and presents in the 
disposal of monastic leases. . . . The minute Wolsey s 
back was turned, Cromwell and his companion De Alen, 
a hard and grasping man equally well trained in business, 
proceeded to use the power given into their hands to 
enrich themselves by every possible means, some of 
which were utterly unjustifiable. The monastery which 
could pay a large bribe was often left untouched ; of 
those that were suppressed, probably a large proportion 
of the spoils was never employed at Oxford or Ipswich, 
but went straight into the pockets of the suppressors." 
It was impossible to keep this peculation entirely secret, 
and Cromwell became " generally hated." Neverthe 
less, he steadily rose in power and favour amongst the 
influential : that he also increased in wealth goes without 
saying ; it is on record that in 1527 he began to grant 
annuities, which only a rich man could do. Crowds of 
suitors begin to approach him ; their letters are sicken 
ing in their flattery and adulation ; even great folk, 
noblemen as well as commoners, begin to lick his moneyed 
fingers. And busy as he is with Wolsey s business, he 
still keeps up his practice as a lawyer: he was busy 
in that until the time of Wolsey s fall in 1529. Before 
that probably during the sweating sickness epidemic 
of 1527-28 he lost his wife, who left him one son, 
Gregory, who, unlike his brilliant father, was dull- 
witted, " stupid and slow beyond belief," though he 
eventually married the sister of Jane Seymour, made 
some show in public life, and was created a peer. At this 
time Cromwell lived in Austin Friars, in a handsomely 
appointed and furnished house, and judging by the 


documents concerning him and it in the Public Record 
Office, he was at the time of Wolsey s fall a very-well-to- 
do man. 


So we come to the day on which Cromwell, having 
said his prayers out of his primer, persuaded Wolsey s 
chaplains to lend a little ready money to the unfortunate 
Cardinal, and contributed five pounds out of his own 
pocket, rode off to London, intent on making or marring. 
Was he occupied with thoughts of repairing Wolsey s 
fortunes as he rode between Esher and Whitehall ? or 
was he scheming and contriving for the advancement of 
his own ? Was he the faithful servant drawn by Shake 
speare ? who seems to have been thinking of the good 
old family retainer so familiar in sentimental drama 
or was he, in plain language, the rat scuttling away 
from the sinking ship ? The answer to that lies in 
considering what he did. That is plain enough. Wolsey s 
star had set ; Cromwell knew it. But there was another 
man s star rising the Duke of Norfolk s. Also on the 
horizon was coming up the star of yet another Gardiner. 
Clearly, the thing to do was to follow the rising stars 
the other had disappeared, never to rise again. It was 
probably due to Norfolk s influence that Cromwell 
gained his seat in Parliament in 1529. In Parliament 
he adopted the wise and crafty course of appearing to 
champion his late master, while at the same time he 
produced Wolsey s confession of his misdeeds. Thus 
he secured the favour of both parties. He gained the 
reputation of the faithful servant, and the character of 
the just statesman. Mr. Merriman believes that Crom 
well s doings in the Parliament of 1529 were " ordered " 
by the King. However that may be, it is certain that 
Cromwell emerged from them in a stronger position 
than ever. And then there was no going back to Esher, 
as he had promised. Cunningly and warily he dis 
charged his debt to Wolsey by speaking for him in 


1529 ; he worked for his pardon in the early weeks of 
1530 ; but when the Cardinal s enemies gathered them 
selves, later on in the year, for their last successful 
assault on the great statesman, Cromwell stood aloof. 
Wolsey had served his turn, and he had no further use 
for him : the rest is silence. It was not to Cromwell, 
the tried, trusty, faithful friend, that Wolsey spoke his 
last bitterly regretful words ; one cannot conceive that 
Wolsey ever could have spoken such words to such a 


Before we find out how Cromwell entered into the 
close service of Henry VIII, as he did yery soon after 
the Wolsey episode, let us look at the man as he is 
drawn by Mr. Merriman. " Cromwell was a short, 
strongly built man, with a large, dull face. He was 
smooth-shaven, with close-cropped hair, and had a 
heavy double chin. His mouth was small and cruel, 
and was surmounted by an extraordinarily long upper 
jip, while a pair of grey eyes, set closely together, moved 
restlessly under his light eyebrows. He had an awkward, 
uncouth gait . . . which gave one the idea that he was 
a patient, plodding, and, if anything, a rather stupid 
sort of man. But this was all merely external . . . 
when engaged in an interesting conversation, his face 
would suddenly light up, and the dull, drudging, com 
monplace expression give way to a subtle, cunning, and 
intelligent aspect, quite at variance with his ordinary 
appearance." Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, who 
knew him well, noted that he had a trick of giving a 
roguish, oblique glance whenever he made a striking 
remark. He was famous for his ability to adapt him 
self to circumstances. No man could flatter so cleverly ; 
no man could be harsher if need be. In society his 
manners were charming none could resist his personal 
attraction. He was a splendid host ; he had a great 
knack of drawing people out. And he had a rare taste 


in art, and was a collector of beautiful things, and was 
a well-read man, especially in the works of Machiavelli. 

Various accounts have been given of Cromwell s 
personal introduction to the special notice of the King 
to whom he was presently to be right-hand man. He 
probably came into close relations with Henry when 
the sovereign took into his own hands the ventures 
which Wolsey had initiated at Ipswich and Oxford. 
Chapuys says that when Wolsey died, Sir John Wallop 
so insulted and threatened Cromwell that Cromwell 
applied directly for protection to Henry, and at an 
interview with him promised to make him " the richest 
king that ever was in England." Pole, whose accounts 
of the whole affair seem most dependable, says that 
Cromwell secured an audience with Henry, boldly spoke 
to him about " the great matter " of his divorce, and 
advised him to cut himself and his kingdom clean away 
from the papacy. The difficulty of finding out the 
truth as to what did actually occur between Henry and 
Cromwell is deepened by the fact that both kept it 
secret ; the letters between them reveal next to nothing. 
But it is as Mr. Merriman observes : " the probabilities 
point to Cromwell as the true originator of the startling 
changes which occurred soon after his accession to 
power." The hesitancy about the royal divorce comes 
to a sudden end ; Henry moves, with quickness and 
decision ; almost before men have realized what is 
happening, the break with Rome is an accomplished 
fact, and the extraordinary and surprising events of 
1534-40 are in process. 


Pole s account of the meeting between Henry and 
Cromwell, of which Mr. Merriman says, " there is every 
reason to believe in the veracity of this report," goes 
into detail. Henry, at that time, had become utterly 
discouraged in his efforts to obtain the wished-for 
divorce from Katharine ; Wolsey had been a failure ; 


the clergy failed him ; his Privy Council failed him. 
At this juncture appeared Cromwell, whom Pole charac 
teristically styles Satanee Nuncius. He introduces him 
self to his sovereign tactfully and with skill. Modestly 
he excuses his boldness in daring to offer advice. He 
has, however, an excellent excuse his loyalty to his 
high lord, whom he wishes to serve, so far as his poor 
ability will allow. He is sure that the King s troubles 
are due to the weakness of his advisers. They have 
listened to the opinions of the common herd, and dare 
not act on their own responsibility. Then he comes to 
the great question of the divorce. All the wise and 
learned men are in favour of it : all that is lacking is 
papal sanction. Why should the King hesitate because 
this cannot be obtained ? Already there are those who 
have renounced the authority of Rome. " Let the King, 
with the consent of Parliament, declare himself Head 
of the Church in England, and all his difficulties would 
vanish. England was at present a monster with two 
heads. If the King should take to himself the supreme 
power, religious as well as secular, every incongruity 
would cease ; the clergy would immediately realize that 
they were responsible to the King and not to the Pope, 
and would forthwith become subservient to the Royal 
will." Such is the probable truth about Cromwell s 
advice to Henry : we may be sure that it fitted well 
with Henry s wishes, nor need we be surprised that its 
giver was rewarded with a place in the Privy Council. 


From this time onward the movements against the 
then state of the Church in England must be considered 
as the work of Cromwell. His first move was a singu 
larly astute and crafty one. He knew that his plan 
as to the disowning of papal authority would meet with 
strong opposition from the clergy, regular and secular ; 
they, accordingly, must be brought into subjection. He 
had a scheme for that, already prepared. The guilt of 


Wolsey, it was announced, was shared in by Convocation, 
the Privy Council, the two Houses of Parliament, even 
by the nation itself, inasmuch as all had recognized 
Wolsey in his capacity of Legate a later e : all had become, 
in the words of the covering statute, his " fautors and 
abettors." The whole body of clergy were " all in the 
praemunire," which the Attorney-General filed against 
them in the Court of King s Bench. There then followed 
what Cromwell had expected. Convocation met and 
" offered the King one hundred thousand pounds to be 
their good lord and also to give them a pardon of all 
offences touching the Prsemunire, by Act of Parliament." 
Henry refused unless a clause was inserted in the" 
preamble setting him forth as " Only Supreme Head 
of the Church and Clergy of England." Weak as the 
clergy were, they made some show of fight, and Henry 
was finally induced to consent to the amendment pro 
posed by Archbishop Warham an amendment which 
was of the nature of a compromise, and in the end was 
of no effect. The Convocations of both provinces then 
agreed with the royal demands, that of York voting 
an additional eighteen thousand pounds, and the pardon 
was granted. In the following year, once more through 
the clever designs of Cromwell, Convocation was reduced 
to complete submission, and the first great steps for 
establishing the Royal Supremacy in Church and State 
had been accomplished. 


During the next three years the breach with Rome 
was steadily widened. Various admonitions in the form 
of hints were dispatched from the Pope to Henry ; 
Henry paid no attention to them. In January 1533 he 
was secretly married to Anne Boleyn ; in May, Cranmer, 
who had succeeded Warham as Archbishop of Canter 
bury, pronounced the marriage with Katharine invalid ; 
a few days later he declared that with Anne lawful. 
In July, Henry was formally excommunicated : towards 


the end of the year orders were given out that none 
should preach at Paul s Cross without declaring in his 
sermon that the Pope had no more authority than any 
other foreign bishop. Similar orders were sent to the 
heads of the four Orders of friars. It was determined 
that henceforth the Pope should only be spoken of as 
Bishop of Rome ; during the remainder of Henry s and 
the whole of Edward VI s reign he is invariably referred 
to by that title in all State papers. " The Pope," says 
Gairdner, " was now to be considered only as a foreign 
bishop who had no authority in England, and whose 
judgment either in faith or morals was no longer to be 
regarded." When Parliament met in January 1534 
various measures were passed which showed that the 
Roman authority was at an end. The abolition of 
annates was confirmed. Henceforth no bishops were 
to be presented to the Pope. No Bulls were to be 
procured from Rome. Bishops were to be elected by 
the King s congt d elire; bishops-elect were to be pre 
sented to the archbishop of the province ; an archbishop 
to another metropolitan and two bishops, or to four 
bishops appointee! by the Crown to consecrate him. 
The Peter s Pence payments and all other tributes to 
Rome were ordered to be discontinued. Any person 
suing to Rome for any sort of faculty was to incur the 
penalties of prsemunire. All appeals to Rome were for 
bidden : all future appeals from archbishops or abbots 
were in future to be heard in Chancery. On March 31 
the Convocation of Canterbury declared that the Bishop 
of Rome " has no greater jurisdiction conferred upon 
him by God in this kingdom than any other foreign 
bishop " : that of York f ofiowed suit on May 5 . Declara 
tions of royal supremacy were obtained from Oxford, 
Cambridge, and the various monastic houses between 
May and December : there was little difficulty with the 
universities or with the monks, but the friars were harder 
to deal with. Parliament met in November, and passed 
a short Act declaring the King Supreme Head of the 


Church in England, and annexing the title to the Crown, 
and on January 15, 1535, an Order in Council confirmed 
this, and Henry VIII was henceforth " on earth Supreme 
Head of the Church of England." 


During these five years Thomas Cromwell had been 
steadily advancing in power. In 1531 and 1532 he had 
been appointed Privy Councillor, Master of the Jewels, 
Clerk of the Hanaper, and Master of the King s Wards. 
In 1533 he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer : a 
little later he became Principal Secretary to the King. 
And in January 1535, a few days after the Order in 
Council just referred to, he was appointed Vicar-General, 
and Visitor-General of the Monasteries, and began the 
work of destruction with which his name is chiefly 
associated. But before we consider that, we must look 
back and see what he had been doing during the five 
years of ecclesiastical revolution. Much of his labour 
was of a secret and underground sort. Mr. Merriman 
thinks that he began his system of espionage " the 
most effective that England had ever seen " in -1532. 
Its object, of course, was the detection of disaffection 
and sedition amongst Henry s subjects, high-placed or 
low-placed, but especially amongst the clergy. Crom 
well was eminently successful in prosecuting this branch 
of his multifarious work : he may well be regarded as 
the first of those European statesmen who from the 
sixteenth century onward made great use of secret 
service. He planted his spies and agents everywhere ; 
the monk in his cloister was no safer than the tradesman 
in his tavern ; the peer in his country house was as 
liable to have his sayings reported as the peasant 
gossiping in the village street. Sermons were eagerly 
listened to by these myrmidons. An obscure parson, 
talking in confidence from his pulpit to his parishioners, 
was often amazed, long afterwards, to find that some 
chance phrase had been carried to London to the watch- 


ful Minister, and that he was henceforth an object of 
suspicion and a candidate for the gaol. A mass of 
Cromwell s " Private Notes for Remembrance " is still 
in existence, and shows how he carefully collected and 
stored up material incriminatory of others. It seems 
amazing that in such a short time and in those days of 
poor means of communication he contrived to spread 
his network so thoroughly all over the kingdom. Yet 
" in every county and village, almost in every home 
stead," says Dean Hook (Lives of the Archbishops of 
Canterbury), " he had a secret force of informers and 
spies. They depended on the patronage of the Vice 
gerent, who, generous and despotic, could give as well 
as take away. In the enthusiasm of their selfish loyalty 
they were on the watch for traitors, and in the well- 
paid piety of their hearts they had a terrible dread of 
superstition." Under this system, too, Cromwell intro 
duced the practice of secret trial. Many a man was 
quietly arrested, brought as quietly before him, and 
quietly put away often never to appear again. 


But Cromwell was not only the first man to introduce 
into England the system of espionage of which he had 
doubtless learnt the rudiments during his Continental 
experiences he was also the first Englishman to whom 
we may justly apply the title of Press Agent. He was 
quick to perceive the value of publicity ; to appreciate 
the help which could be afforded by the printing- 
machine. A flood of literature in favour of the new 
policy was poured over the country cheap books, 
cheaper broadsides, ballad-papers, song-sheets : they 
were in every man s hands. It was part of his scheme 
that these things should be scurrilous : his crafty in 
telligence taught him that abuse and contempt are 
valuable weapons. To him, as originator and willing 
abettor, we owe the vast volume of abominable literature 
which followed upon the events of 1534. " He was the 


great patron of ribaldry," says Maitland, " and the 
protector of the ribalds, of the low jester, the filthy 
ballad-monger, the alehouse singers, and hypocritical 
mockers in feasts ; in short, of all the blasphemous 
mocking and scoffing which disgraced the Protestant 
party at the time of the Reformation. It is of great 
consequence, in our view of the times, to consider that 
the vile publications, of which too many remain, while 
most have rotted, and the profane pranks which were 
performed, were not the outbreaks of low, ignorant 
partisans, a rabble of hungry dogs such as is sure to 
run after a party in spite even of sticks and stones 
bestowed by those whom they follow and disgrace. It 
was the result of design and policy, earnestly and 
elaborately pursued by the man possessing, for all such 
purposes, the highest place and power in the land." 


Foxe, in the first edition of his Martyrology, calls 
Thomas Cromwell " this valiant soldier and Captain of 
Christ ... by whose industry and ingenious labours 
divers excellent ballads and books were set abroad." 
We know of what character these books and ballads 
were, but what do we know of Cromwell s own religious 
opinions ? He had set himself to change the aspect 
of religion in England what was his own religion ? 
Had he himself been asked such a question, and could 
anything have induced so secret-loving a man to answer 
it truthfully and unreservedly, he would probably have 
replied that his religion was that of the master he 
happened to be serving. In spite of the primer and 
" Our Lady Mattins " with which Cavendish found him 
busy in the Great Chamber at Esher, it is much to be 
doubted if he had any religious principles at all. " Crom 
well," remarks Jeremy Collier (Ecclesiastical History of 
Great Britain), " was no Papist at his Death. But then, 
it is pretty plain he was no Protestant neither." Pole, 
who had ample means of knowing, always said that 


Cromwell was an infidel by which he probably meant 
an indifferentist, or, perhaps, a freethinker. Foxe, 
and similar writers, have claimed him as a champion 
of Protestantism, and it is true that he had intimate 
relations with certain reformers of the Tyndale type 
and with various Continental Lutherans. Also he was 
zealous for the publication of the Bible in English, and 
his name is prominently associated with the Ten Articles 
of 1536, but in each case his true object was not religious, 
but wholly political. As regards the Ten Articles he 
knew that a statement of the new position was a matter 
of absolute necessity ; as regards the version of Holy 
Scripture issued under his protection by Miles Cover- 
dale he knew what a splendid political weapon the 
Bible had become in the hands of the Lutherans : out 
of the publication of that version he made a very hand 
some pecuniary profit. The real truth about Cromwell 
would seem to be that he had no personal instincts 
towards either of the rival systems. The keynote to 
his character lies in his conversation with Reginald Pole 
wherein he said that " the great art of the politician 
was to penetrate through the disguise which sovereigns 
are accustomed to throw over their real inclinations, 
and to devise the most specious expedients by which 
they may gratify their appetites without appearing to 
outrage morality or religion." Cromwell s business in 
life was the business of his Prince. When they first 
met, he knew that Henry desired a divorce, and that 
the Pope stood in the way. Let the Pope be removed 
once and for all. The clergy would rebel. Let the 
clergy be brought to heel and kept there. There 
would have to be a new settlement of religion. Let it 
be made. Let anything, everything be done, so that 
the prince may have his way. Let us serve the Time 
of the past and the future no man who deserves well of 
the present should take stock. " The whole essence 
of Cromwell s personality," says Mr. Merriman, " con 
sists of different manifestations of one fundamental, 


underlying trait, which, may perhaps be best expressed 
by the common phrase, a strict attention to business. " 


That he was a splendid business man his whole life 
is an unassailable proof. He probably went out of 
England with no more property than he carried on his 
back and in his poorly equipped purse, yet he must 
have been fairly prosperous when he returned, and he 
was certainly well-to-do within a very short time of 
his settling down in London. We have already seen 
that he was one of those men who can carry on several 
businesses at a time ; the genius that enabled him to 
practise law, sell cloth, and deal in wool, all at once, 
enabled him, in his more glorious period, to do the work 
of more offices than fell to any other public man of his 
day. For Thomas Cromwell had many preferments. 
In addition to those of high degree which have been 
already mentioned, and to those which came after, he 
received no fewer than sixteen minor appointments 
between August 1533 and January 1539. He was Re 
corder of Bristol, Joint Constable of Hertford Castle, 
Joint Constable of Berkeley Castle, Steward of the 
Savoy, Steward of Edelmeton and Says Bery, High 
Steward of the University of Cambridge, Prebendary of 
Blewbury in the Diocese of Sarum, Chief Steward of 
Writtle, Steward of Havering-atte-Bower, Dean of 
Wells, Warden and Chief Justice of the Royal Forests, 
Captain of the Isle of Wight, Steward of the Isle of 
Wight, Constable of Carisbrooke Castle, Master of the 
Hunt, and Constable of Leeds Castle. These were small 
things, but they had their value. And in 1536 he was 
made Lord Privy Seal and Vicegerent of the King in 
Spirituals ; at the same time he was raised to the 
peerage as Baron Cromwell : in 1537 he was ma( le a 
Knight of the Garter. And just before his fall he was 
created Earl of Essex, and appointed Great Chamberlain 
of England. 



A business man is best known by the quality of his 
correspondence, and Cromwell was a great writer of 
letters : Mr. Merriman prints 351 in his Life and, Letters. 
The folk to whom they are addressed are of all sorts 
and conditions the King, Wolsey, archbishops and 
bishops, abbots and priors, legal dignitaries, agents, 
foreign correspondents, merchants, tradesmen. Always 
there is the same command and grasp of subject ; 
where it is necessary to write at length, no expenditure 
of time, pains, and paper is too great ; where a brief 
communication will do, it is expressed tersely and 
lucidly in a few lines. These are the letters of a man 
of affairs who knows exactly what he wants doing, and 
how it should be done. Let us look at some specimens. 
Here is a letter from Cromwell to Henry, announcing 
the passing through the House of Commons of the Act 
which forbade any man to keep more than two thousand 
sheep : 

January 1534 

Pleasythyt your most Royall Mageste to be aduertysed how 
that according to your most highe pleasure and commaundement 
I have made serche for such pattentes and grauntys as your 
highnes and also the most Famous Kyng your father whose 
Sowle our lorde pardon haue grauntyd unto Sir Rychard Weston 
Knyght your vndertesawrer of your exchequer and the same 
haue sent to your highnes herin closyd yt may also please your 
most Royall Mageste to knowe how that yesterdaye ther passyd 
your Commons a byll that no person within this your Realme 
shall hereafter kepe and Noryshe aboue the Nombre of twoo 
thousand shepe and also that the eight parte of euerye mans 
lande being a Fermour shall for euer hereafter be put in tyllage 
yerlye which byll yf by the gret wysdom vertuew goodness and 
zeeale that your highnes beryth towardes this your Realme might 
have good Succure and take good effect Amongst your lordes 
aboue I doo Conjecture and Suppose in my pore Symple and 
Unworthye Judgment that your highness shall do the most noble 
proffyttable and most benefycall thing that euer was done to 


the Commone welthe of this your Realme and shall therby 
Increase suche welthe in the same amongyst the gret Nombre 
and multytude for your most louiyng and obedyent Subiectys 
as never was Seane in this Realme Sythen Brewtyse tyrne most 
humblye prostrate at the Fete of your Magnifycence beseche 
your highnes to pardon my boldnes in this wrytyng to your 
grace which only procedythe for the trowthe dewtye allegaunce 
and loue I doo bere to your mageste and the Common welth of 
this your Realme as our lorde knowyth unto whom I shall as 
I am most bounden Incessantlye praye for the contenewans and 
prosperous conseruacion of your most excellent most Royall and 
Imperyall. estate long to Indure. 

There is much, less verbiage and flattery in the following 
letter to the Prior and Convent of Wenlock, in which 
he desires them to grant to one Thomas Lowley the 
lease of a farm at the rent formerly paid by his father : 

May 1534 

In myn harty maner I commende me unto youe. And whereas 
ye haue nowe in your handes and disposicion again, the ferme 
of Oxinbold belonging to that Monastery. These shalbe to desire 
and hartely praye youe, for my sake to graunte a sufficient 
lease thereof to my Freende Thomas Lowleye seruant to Mr 
Norreys vnder your convent seale for the terme of xl yeres 
yelding and payeng vnto yow suche rent for the same, as his 
father whiche was fermour thereof hertofore paid vnto your 
monastery at that tyme that he had it in ferme. Desiring you 
in noo wise to alienate it to any man but only to this tyl ye 
shall knowe furthur, in case ye shall not condescende to this my 
request, and to aduertise me by your Letteres with speed of 
your proceeding in this Behaulf. And thus fare you hartely 
well. From Stepnaye the first day of Maye. 

The following, to the Prior of Dudley, is a good specimen 
of Cromwell s style when he was dealing with, some 
ecclesiastic who was to be brought under subjection : 

February 1535 

I commende me unto you. Lating you wit that for certain 
causes the particularities whereof ye shall knowe hereafter the 


Kinge s pleasure and commatmdement is ye shall immediately 
vppon the sight hereof all delayes and excuses set aparte, person 
ally repaire vnto me wheresoeuer it shall chaunce me to be 
without faylling as ye wil answer to his grace at your extreme 
perill. From the Rulles the xth of Februarye. 


Though the suggestion of the ecclesiastical policy 
which came into being from January 1535 sprang, at 
the moment, from Cromwell, there was nothing original 
about the policy in itself. When Henry VIII claimed 
supremacy over the Church of England, he was merely 
claiming and reviving powers which previous English 
sovereigns had already claimed and exercised. No 
greater misreading of history is possible than that 
which insists that the Church of England made a new 
departure in polity in the sixteenth century. What 
was done was to accentuate, once for all, the truth that 
it was a national Church, independent of papal rule. 
From the days of the Anglo-Saxon Church onward, 
assertion of independence had always been in evidence. 
Sometimes it was timid, sometimes half-hearted, but it 
was always there. " There was no Roman legation 
from the days of Theodore to those of Offa," says Stubbs 
(Constitutional History), " and only scanty vestiges of 
such interference for the next three centuries : Dunstan 
boldly refused to obey a papal sentence." William the 
Conqueror firmly repudiated any direct claim on the 
part of the papacy. " He would not suffer," writes 
Eadmer, " that any one in his dominions should receive 
the pontiff of the city of Rome as Apostolic Pope, except 
at his command, or should on any condition receive his 
letters if they had not been first shown to himself." 
Henry I told Pope Paschal II that as long as he lived 
not one of the rights and customs of the realm of 
England should be taken away from it, and that even 
if he, as king, consented to it, his whole kingdom would 
rise against it. Though John basely sold the liberties 


of Church and people, his ignoble traffic with Rome was 
expressly repudiated by the barons at Lincoln in 1301. 
The attitude of Grosseteste to the papal claims is well 
known. Papal excommunications were little heeded by 
English Parliaments. One of the most serious charges 
brought against Richard II was that he had violated 
the dignity of the Crown and the laws of the realm by 
obtaining a papal Bull against his enemies. Always the 
spirit of independence was in the English Church the 
examples of its manifestation lie thick on the pages of 
history. It owed to Rome precisely what Freeman 
says, " a strong reverence for its parent," but as he 
also says it had always held a greater independence 
than the other Churches of the West, and its kings and 
assemblies never gave up their power in ecclesiastical 
matters. That the papacy, during three hundred years, 
had been permitted great licence, which was sorely 
abused, was no proof of papal dominion over the national 
Church, and when Henry threw it aside in uncere 
monious fashion he was only going back to what had 
existed in earlier days. It may be that Cromwell was 
well read in ecclesiastical history, and knew what the 
true position of the English Church was, and that 
nothing could prevent lie assertion of her ancient 
liberties. And whatever his own private character, and 
however bad and ruthless his methods, he had full 
historical authority for the advice he gave to his master 
when he counselled him to repudiate the claims of 

17. THE TYRANNY, 1535-45. 

But legal as Cromwell s advice undoubtedly was, it 
was with a harsh and terrible cruelty that he assisted 
his master in putting the counsel into practice. From 
the time that Cromwell was appointed Vicar-General 
and Vicegerent in matters spiritual, the country was 
subjected to a tyranny which has not been equalled 
for mercilessness and horror since that day not even 


by the Terror of the French Revolution. Much of this 
is, of course, to be attributed to the character of Henry 
VIII. It is to be noted how this King, the older he 
grew, waxed more terrible in despotism, passing on 
from one deed of cruelty to another until his sun went 
down in a sea of blood. His favourites or, to be more 
correct, his instruments serve his purpose and are 
thrown from him, to the dungeon or the scaffold. All 
go the same way Wolsey, More, Cromwell : many 
others of less note. Cromwell might have known 
perhaps did know, but could not, with all his craftiness, 
gauge the exact moment what was probably in store. 
He had had his warning from a far greater man than 
himself. When he first entered Henry s service, Crom 
well received some advice from Sir Thomas More, in 
respect of his relations with the King. " Tell him what 
he ought to do," said More, " but never what he is able 
to do. For if a lion knew its own strength, it were 
hard for any man to rule it." 


Henry came to know his own strength, and from 1535 
he exercised it, ruthlessly, cruelly, despotically, with 
Cromwell as the ready and willing agent. It is difficult 
to find out which was really master and which pupil ; 
which was instigator and which abettor, but between 
them, master and man made England a shambles. 
Cromwell was an adept in straining law his first notable 
work in this way resulted in three vile and heartless 
judicial murders. In the April of 1535 orders were 
issued for the arrest of all who still held by the jurisdic 
tion of the Pope, or offered prayer in public on his 
behalf, and examples began to be made. First came 
that wrought on certain Carthusian monks John 
Houghton, Prior of the London Charterhouse ; Augus 
tine Webster, Prior of Axholme ; and Robert Laurence, 
Prior of Bevall, with whom were associated Dr. Richard 
Reynolds, of the Bridgettine house at Sion, and John 


Hale, Vicar of Isleworth. Feeling that they could not 
conscientiously take the new oaths, certain of them 
visited Cromwell privately and begged that they and 
their brethren should not be pressed. We may be sure 
of what passed at this interview. On April 20 the five 
were brought up before Cromwell publicly at the Rolls 
Court, and there asked if they would acknowledge and 
obey the King as Supreme Head of the Church of 
England. All declined, and were forthwith sent to the 
Tower, where, a day or two later, Cromwell and certain 
counsellors visited and pleaded with them. The five 
prisoners remained firm : loyal subjects they would 
prove themselves, but it was against their consciences 
to acknowledge the Bang s headship in spiritualities. 
So on April 28 they were brought to trial at West 
minster before a special court presided over by the 
Duke of Norfolk. Much effort was expended in en 
deavouring to secure their conformity to the new 
law, but it was of no avail, and they were next day 
found guilty and sentenced to death for treason. 
The execution was carried out on May 4, with, says 
Gairdner, " more than usual brutality, the men being 
ripped up in each other s presence, their arms torn 
off, and their hearts rubbed upon their mouths and 

19. FISHER. 

Fisher s turn came soon afterwards. He was a York- 
shireman, a native of Beverley, where he was born in 
1459. Educated at Cambridge, he became master of 
the old college of Michael House in 1497. He was one 
of the principal founders of St. John s College, and 
helped in the formation of the library which was called 
" the finest in Christendom." He was Chancellor of 
the University of Cambridge in 1504, and in the same 
year was appointed Bishop of Rochester ; in the last 
year of his life he was raised to the dignity of a cardinal 
by Pope Paul III. He was a man of great erudition, 


and a devoted supporter of the New Learning. From 
the first he had vigorously opposed the granting of a 
divorce between Henry and Katharine. Alone amongst 
the bishops he had fought against the declaration of 
Royal Supremacy. When he was brought to trial in 
Westminster Hall, June 17, 1535, he was an old and 
feeble man. Condemned for high treason, he was given 
five days in which to prepare himself. Froude tells the 
story of his end in a few graphic sentences. " When 
the last morning dawned, he dressed himself carefully 
as he said, for his marriage-day. The distance to 
Tower Hill was short. He was able to walk ; and he 
tottered out of the prison gates, holding in his hand 
a closed volume of the New Testament. The crowd 
flocked about him, and he was heard to pray that, 
as this book had been his best comfort and com 
panion, so in that hour it might give him some special 
strength, and speak to him as from his Lord. Then, 
opening it at a venture, he read : This is life eternal, 
to know Thee, the only true God, and. Jesus Christ, whom 
Thou hast sent."" 

20. MORE. 

Another victim came forth from the Tower a few days 
later. Sir Thomas More had a reputation for wisdom 
which had spread over Europe. He had been the close, 
personal, trusted friend of the King. He was the friend, 
too, of the great scholars of his day ; men had looked 
to him as to a pillar of light. He had filled the highest 
office open to a subject. In sagacity, in knowledge, in 
manners he had no equal in the England of his time. 
But he would give no support to the new law : in that 
he was inflexible as Fisher and the Carthusians. Com 
mitted to the Tower, he went thither cheerfully, know 
ing what the end would be. His wife urged him to 
give way and make his peace with the King, and so 
come home to his good house. He answered that his 
cell in the Tower was as near Heaven as his own house 


at Chelsea was, and that he had no mind to leave it. 
Cromwell visited him in the Tower and tried his cajoleries 
on him. One would have given much to have been 
present at the interview between the subtle and crafty 
upstart and the honest-minded, upright .gentleman. On 
July i, 1535, More faced his judges in Westminster 
Hall. " The outcome was not in doubt," remarks Sir 
Sidney Lee (Great Englishmen of the Sixteenth Century). 
"... More, the faithful son of the Old Church, and 
the disciple of the New Culture, was sentenced to be 
hanged at Tyburn. As he left the court, he remarked 
that no temporal lord could lawfully be head of the 
Church ; that he had studied the history of the papacy, 
and was convinced that it was based on Divine autho 
rity." The sentence was commuted to one of beheading, 
and on July 6 the wisest man in Europe walked calmly 
to the scaffold on Tower Hill, asked the officer in charge 
of him to see him safely up, and that as for his coming 
down he would shift for himself, and so, cheerful and 
witty to the last, went to his death. 


The world marvelled that any king should put so 
great a man to so poor a use, and the Emperor Charles V 
exclaimed that he would have rather lost the best city 
of his dominions than such a counsellor. But Henry 
and Cromwell had their own views on these matters 
how practical and cold-blooded Cromwell s were may 
be learned from the notes in his memoranda. Mr. 
Merriman accuses Cromwell of poisoning Henry s mind 
against Fisher and More, especially against More. 
" There is every reason to think," he says, " that he 
[Cromwell] was the true cause of the ex-Chancellor s 
death. It is not likely that Henry would have con 
sented to the execution of a man whom he had formerly 
loved and respected as much as More, unless his coun 
sellor had poisoned his heart against him. Moreover, 
the mentions of More and Fisher in Cromwell s Remem- 


brances are so frequent and of such a character as to 
leave little doubt that he had determined to ruin them 
from the first." " No touch either of love or hate 
swayed him from his course," says Green. " The student 
of Machiavelli had not studied The Prince in vain. He 
had reduced bloodshed to a system. Fragments of his 
papers still show us with what a businesslike brevity 
he ticked off human lives among the casual Re 
membrances of the day. Item, the Abbot of 
Reading to be sent down to be tried and executed 
at Reading. Item, to know the King s pleasure 
touching Master More. Item, when Master Fisher 
shall go to his execution, and the other. It is 
indeed this utter absence of all passion, of all 
personal feeling, that makes the figure of Cromwell the 
most terrible in our history. He has an absolute faith 
in the end he is pursuing, and he simply hews his way 
to it as a woodman hews his way through the forest, 
axe in hand." 


In that summer of 1535 the English people lay power 
less in the hands of Henry and his Minister. " The 
nobles," says Gairdner (History of the English Church, iv), 
" had lost their independence, the common people were 
powerless without a head, and the Church within the 
kingdom that element of the national life which had 
really most freedom of spirit was not only bound and 
shackled, but terrorized and unable to speak out." 
But still worse things were at hand. Cromwell s power 
as Vicegerent in matters spiritual was a deep and far- 
reaching one. He was empowered to hold visitations, 
to correct and suspend bishops and clergy, to confirm 
or annul episcopal elections, and to call synods never 
had such authority been delegated to one man. And 
now his chief work comes into prominence. There is 
little doubt that for some time he had secretly resolved 
on the absolute destruction of the religious houses. He 


had his reasons they were purely political in their 
nature. Always keeping in view his main purpose 
the strengthening of the power of the Crown he turned 
on the monastic Orders as being undoubted outposts of 
the papacy. His astute mind knew that while the 
secular clergy could readily be brought to heel, there 
would never be complete subjection so long as the 
monasteries, free from episcopal supervision and still 
virtually independent of any power outside themselves, 
remained in existence. It was no religious reform that 
he contemplated : that, we may be sure, did not trouble 
him in the least, if it even ever crossed his thoughts. 
When the full power of his Vicegerency came into his 
hands, it was not a sweeping and cleansing of the 
monastic edifice that he designed, but the absolute 
levelling of every stone that stood in its walls. The 
steps taken were designedly gradual, but the result was 
never in doubt. 


But there was another and a powerful reason. Crom 
well had promised Henry that he would make him the 
richest king in Christendom. In spite of all their 
troubles, the religious communities were rich. They 
owned vast possessions in lands and houses, money and 
jewels, vestments and furnishings, lead and stone. They 
were as well worth sacking as a score of prosperous 
capitals. Probably he had made a careful estimate of 
what they were worth. Modern estimates of that worth 
vary considerably. An early writer on the subject, 
Harmer, who endeavoured to correct some of the errors 
of Bishop Burnet, says that the monastic Orders held 
not one-fifth part of the kingdom surely a mistaken 
estimate. Blunt, in his Church history, gives several 
calculations. He thinks that the annual revenue was 
200,000 ; and that the capital value of the income 
which came into Henry s hands was no less than 
48,000,000 in modern value, of course. This is 


reckoning that money is now worth, ten times and 
something over what it was then, and calculating the 
capital at something beyond twenty years value of 
the income. A modern historian, Mr. C. R. L. Fletcher, 
makes a much more moderate estimate. " The land 
held by monastic corporations in England," he says, 
" has been calculated at one-fifteenth of the cultivable 
area of the country, distributed between some 600 
houses of monks and nuns, containing perhaps 8000 
* professed religious persons, i.e. persons who had taken 
the full monastic vow. One may perhaps multiply this 
number by ten in order to include all the persons who 
directly or indirectly depended for their livelihood on 
the monastic system, say 80,000 persons in all ; and 
this in a population far short of 4,000,000. The amount 
of wealth expressible in money is much more difficult 
to calculate. But even if we include the 2300 chan 
tries and the no hospitals which shared the fate of 
the monasteries either before or just after the end of the 
reign, it is still difficult to believe that the total value 
of the clerical spoil could have reached fifteen millions 
(present value of money), as it is sometimes stated to 
have done ; at the same time, four millions is probably 
too modest an estimate." 


The difficulty in arriving at a proper estimate lies, 
of course, in the other difficulty of finding the proper 
multiple. Most writers and calculators have gone on 
ten as the right figure. But Mr. Hilaire Belloc assures 
us that ten is by no means the right figure, nor anything 
like it "a general multiple of twenty," he says in his 
book on The Historic Thames, " when one considers 
wages as well as staple foods, is as high as can be fixed 
safely, while a general multiple of twelve is certainly 
too low." Then he proceeds to give an example. 
" Supposing, for instance," he goes on, " we take the 
high multiple of twenty, and say that the revenues of 


Westminster at its dissolution in the first days of 1540 
were some ,80,000 a year in our modern money, we 
are far underestimating the economic position of West 
minster in the State. There are to-day many private 
men in London who dispose of as great an income, and 
who, for all their ostentation, are not remarkable ; but 
the income of Westminster, in the early sixteenth 
century, when wealth was far more equally divided 
than it is now, and when the accumulation of it was 
far less, was a very different matter to what we mean 
to-day by 80,000 a year. It produced more of the 
effect which we might to-day imagine would be produced 
by a million. . . . The temptation to sack Westminster 
was something like the temptation presented to our 
financial powers to-day to get at the rubber of the 
Congo Basin or at the unexploited coal of Northern 
China." Now, if we accept Mr. Belloc s " high multiple 
of twenty," and accept Blunt s estimate of .200,000 
as the annual income of the religious houses, lumped 
together, it is evident that in our money [i.e. our money 
in its value before 1914] the monastic bodies were worth 
four millions a year, and the capital value of this, 
reckoned at twenty years purchase, would be eighty 
millions sterling. 


Gasquet, in a mass of figures in his Henry Fill and, 
the English Monasteries, gives a much more reason 
able and far more likely estimate, founded on figures 
taken from official records. A good many of these 
records are in existence. The accounts of the 
Treasurer of the Court of Augmentation are preserved 
in the Record Office. And as actual figures are the 
best things to go by, it may be well to set down 
here what the Treasurer actually received between 
April 24, 1536, and Michaelmas 1547 in other words, 
between the beginning of the Suppression and the death 
of Henry VIII. 


L *. * 

Revenue from monastic lands . , 415,005 6 loj 
Paid by religious for royal licence to 

continue ...... 5,948 6 8 

Sales of monastic lands by King . . 855,751 18 5 

Sale of woods ..... 634 6 6 

Fines paid by tenants for new leases , 4*529 9 ioj 
Sales of ornaments, vestments, lead, bells, 

furniture, buildings .... 26,502 I oj 
Deductions from religious pensions as a 

forced loan to the King . . . 9>443 X 5 6 
Loan to King for war purposes from the 

religious and clergy .... 12,870 16 8 
Payments by collectors and other officers 

for royal leave to be free from military 

service ...... 5,776 7 8| 

Miscellaneous: Arrears of collectors, etc. ^979 *9 IX J 

Total 1,338,442 9 ^\ 

[Certain figures, given by Gasquet, should be carefully 
noted. The Treasurer s rolls show that there came into 
the hands of the Bang from the monasteries, in round 
figures, 14,500 oz. of pure gold, 129,500 oz. of silver 
gilt, 74,000 oz. of parcel gilt, and 68,000 oz. of silver. 
Sir John Williams reckoned this to be worth, at the 
melting price, in money of that date, about .64,000.] 
It will be remarked that in the foregoing account the 
net result to the royal exchequer of the sale of the 
monastic lands was, in round figures, 856,000. Reckon 
ing this at ten times its value, we get an equivalent, 
as Gasquet points out, of 8,500,000. Fixing a mean 
between the usually accepted ten and Mr. Belloc s 
" multiple of twenty," we get an equivalent of over 
13,000,000. Taking all the various facts and figures 
into consideration, it would certainly appear that the 
capital value of the monastic spoils far exceeded the 
four millions spoken of by Mr. C. R. L. Fletcher, and 
that a more probable sum is found in twelve millions. 
And in this connexion it should be remembered that 


a careful examination of the official records shows that 
while some of the purchasers got their lands at fair 
prices, equal to twenty years purchase, others are known 
to have got properties at very much lower rates. Sir 
Richard Gresham paid at the rate of twenty years 
purchase for Fountains ; Cromwell s nephew, Richard 
Williams, got Ramsey, which was worth more than 
1700 a year, for about three years purchase. What 
the gross bulk of the property was sold at, then, does 
not represent its real value. 


Before we pass on to consider what was done under 
Cromwell as regards the suppression of the eight Cis 
tercian houses in Yorkshire, we may profitably glance 
at the records of Cromwell s own share in the monastic 
spoils. We have already seen that during the period 
in which he was engaged by Wolsey in the limited 
suppression of 1524-29, he took good care to feather 
his own nest. But his pickings on that occasion were 
as nothing compared to his wholesale benefitings by 
his rise to power. From the time of his appointment 
as Vicar-General, bribes, presents, gifts, flowed in upon 
him ceaselessly. The account book of his steward, 
Thomas Avery, is in existence in the Record Office. 
Its entries show how Cromwell took care to profit by 
his position. From the archbishops down to the hum 
blest laymen, crowds of people sent him money, and 
not only money, but bribes in kind ; horses, hawks, 
game, apples, fish all, indeed, is fish that comes to 
his net. He shows himself a very cormorant, and takes 
good care to disgorge nothing. On January i, 1539, 
his New Year s presents come to 800. There are 
other fortunate occasions. The Prior of St. Swithin s 
at Winchester gives him 300. The Abbot of Evesham 
sends him 266. The Prior of Rochester forwards 100 
for his acceptance. Marmaduke Bradley, anxious for 
the abbacy of Fountains, offers 600 marks " to make 



hym abbot ther," and " to pay yowe immediately afiter 
the election, withoute delay or respite, at one pay 
ment " a fine example of what things had got to 
amongst the community at Fountains. Archbishop 
Cranmer gives Cromwell .40 a year, " as a memorial 
of our friendship," he puts it, but it is plain that the 
real reason is a currying of favour. As soon as the 
rumours of Dissolution are abroad he is overwhelmed 
with offers. The Abbot of Pipewell will give .200. 
The monks at Colchester offer him just ten times as 
much an enormous sum for those days. Durham, 
which has been giving him .5 a year, will give him .10. 
One Abbot of Leicester sends .40 ; his successor supple 
ments it with a brace of fat oxen and twenty fat wethers. 
There is no doubt that while the religious houses existed, 
Cromwell, to his own shame and to the equal shame 
and disgrace of the monks, sold appointments in them. 
The case of Marmaduke Bradley is one illustration, but 
there are others. Sir Piers Dutton writes to Cromwell 
to tell him that there is a certain monk of Vale Royal 
who " will be contented to give your mastership a .100 
in hand and furthur to do you as large pleasure as any 
man shall " if he will only nominate him to the abbacy. 
Two Yorkshire communities Gisborough and Whitby 
figure in this connexion ; there were monks in each 
who were willing to buy ecclesiastical preferment. 


As to the Vicar-General s precise share in the monastic 
spoils, it is certain that he took good care to profit 
largely. He received a great deal of the monastic land 
by grant from the Crown : the properties of several 
priories in various parts of the kingdom fell to him. 
Lound, in Leicestershire ; Yarmouth, in Norfolk ; Alces- 
ter, in Warwick; St. Osithe s, in Essex; Modenham, 
in Kent ; and Mickelham and Lewes, in Sussex, all 
became his. He made some alterations and repairs at 
Lewes Priory, and sent his son Gregory, then recently 


married, to live there ; in the Cromwell Correspondence, 
in the Record Office, there is a letter from Gregory, in 
which he remarks that the bride finds her residence 
" very commodious." Other members of Cromwell s 
family profited, too. His nephew, Sir Richard, great 
grandfather of the coming Lord Protector of a hundred 
years later, was, under his uncle s favour, appointed a 
Royal Commissioner at the time of the Suppression, 
and he got several fine properties Hinchinbrooke, 
Sawtry, St. Neots, Neath, Ramsey, St. Helen s in London, 
and lesser places. In addition to his grants from the 
Crown, Cromwell secured still more monastic land by 
private arrangement. Also he got large quantities of 
saleable goods : he sold .1200 worth of such goods at 
Lewes alone, for his own benefit, of course. He was 
wisely mindful of taking care that his agents, spies, and 
commissioners profited, too. He scribbles down their 
names in his " Remembrances." " Item, to remember 
Warren for one monastery, Mr. Gostwyke for a monas 
tery, John Freeman for Spalding, Mr. Kingsmill for 
Wherwell, myself for Laund. Item, to remember John 
Godsalve for something, for he hath need." They all 
had need, these hungry seekers after other folk s goods. 
Cromwell himself doubtless considered his own need 
was great, in view of his labours. But during the last 
two or three years of his extraordinary career he was 
a very wealthy man. The records show that after the 
suppression of the religious houses had fairly set in, 
he was spending vast sums of money, as much as 
10,000 a year, buying properties, keeping up an expen 
sive and luxurious establishment, and carrying himself 
in accordance with his dignity as a peer of the realm. 
The " valiant soldier and Captain of Christ," as Foxe 
styles him, was laying out great sums on gold and 
precious stones and fine raiment and furnishings lavishly 
between 1536 and 1540 ; he flung money about at 
cards and dice, and in entertaining the King. Politic, 
Thomas Cromwell may have been in all he did, but it 


is impossible to doubt that when he despoiled the 
monastic Orders he took strict care to profit personally 
by his dealings with them. According to the Calendar 
of State Papers, temp. Henry VIII, money amounting to 
28,000 crowns (= 7000) was found in his house when 
the King s archers under Mr. Cheyney went there to 
make an inventory after his arrest at the council board, 
and there also these searchers found an immense quantity 
of church plate, which, with the money, they removed 
there and then to the King s treasury a transference of 
spoil from a lesser to a far greater robber. 




CROMWELL received his commission as Visitor-General 
of the monasteries in January 1535, but it was not 
until the end of the following summer that active steps 
were taken to put it into force. He could not, of course, 
do the work himself, but he certainly made some pre 
liminary investigations on his own account. From the 
end of July to the beginning of October he was with 
the King in the South and West of England ; according 
to Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, the ostensible 
object of this expedition was the cultivation of the 
acquaintance of Henry s subjects in those parts of the 
country with some sporting diversions thrown in 
but there is no doubt that both the King and his Minister 
visited many of the religious houses in the course of 
their travels, being desirous of ascertaining for them 
selves what the prospects of the visitation were likely 
to be. Already by August two of Cromwell s agents 
were at work in Wiltshire ; these were Legh and Ap- 
Rice ; by autumn, two others, Layton and London, 
had been appointed, and before the end of 1535 all 
four were actively engaged in the task involved in 
Cromwell s formal commission. 


It is a remarkable fact that historians and inquirers 
agree remarkably well on the question of the character, 
veracity, and good faith of these principal agents in 



Cromwell s work of destruction. Without doubt they 
were men of distinctly bad character the sort of men 
who would be chosen by an unscrupulous man to carry 
out unscrupulous designs. From Fuller, in his time, 
to Mr. C. R. L. Fletcher, in ours, no writer on the period 
has a good word to say for them. " The inquisitors," 
says Fuller, " were men who well understood the message 
they were sent on, and would not come back without 
a satisfactory answer to him who sent them, knowing 
themselves to be no losers thereby." " Seldom in the 
world s history," remarks a writer in the Aihen&um, 
November 1886, in a review of Dr. Gairdner s Letters 
and Papers, temp. Henry VIII, " has a tyrant found 
baser instruments for his basest designs than Henry 
found for carrying out the visitation of the English 
monasteries. . . . That any monastery in England con 
tained half a dozen such wretches as the more prominent 
of the visitors who came to despoil them is almost in 
conceivable. . . . The reader is in danger of disbeliev 
ing everything that these men report in his indignation 
at the audacious and manifest lying which charac 
terizes their reports." " The character of witnesses 
must always form an important element in estimating 
the value of their testimony, and the character of such 
obscene, profligate, and perjured witnesses as Layton 
and London could not well be worse," says Blunt, in 
his work on the Reformation. Froude, in his general 
whitewashing of Henry and his myrmidons, admits that 
it has been proved that Legh and Layton, especially 
in Yorkshire, " bore themselves with overwhelming 
insolence," and that they were known " to have taken 
bribes, and when bribes were not offered, to have 
extorted them." " There are grave reasons," says 
Gairdner, most dependable of all modern writers on 
the period, " for suspecting the whole of these comperts 
[the visitors reports] to be a gross exaggeration. Nor 
can we well believe that visitors cared much about 
truth who did their work so hurriedly." " The character 


of the visitors," says Green, " the sweeping nature of 
their report, and the long debate which followed on 
its reception, leaves little doubt that the charges were 
grossly exaggerated." Coming down to a very modern 
opinion, Mr. C. R. L. Fletcher says, " The way had been 
paved for the Dissolution by a rapid visitation of the 
monasteries, got up by Cromwell in the previous year. 
It was conducted by three violent, arrogant ruffians, 
whose commission undoubtedly was designed to get 
up a case against the monks." Altogether, we may 
conclude that Cromwell s visitors were thoroughly bad, 
unscrupulous men, liars of the first water, whose first 
purpose was to serve their master ; whose second, to 
Hne their own pockets. 


But let us see who they were. Richard Layton was 
a Cumberland man, the son of William Layton of Dale- 
main. He was educated and took holy orders at 
Cambridge. He held the sinecure rectory of Stepney ; 
he was a pluralist and held another living at Brington. 
He was later on a clerk in Chancery ; still later he was 
appointed Clerk to the Privy Council. He was employed 
by Cromwell in July 1535 to conduct a visitation of 
the University of Oxford. He solicited Cromwell to 
give him the visitorship of the northern monasteries, 
and arrived in Yorkshire for this purpose in January 
1536. His unpopularity in the North was as great as 
his undoubted activity. He reaped considerable profit 
to himself out of his work, and was further rewarded 
by being appointed Dean of York in July 1539. " Upon 
him," says Dr. Raine, " in the opinion of many, rested 
the obloquy of seizing the great relique of York Minster, 
the head of St. William, or rather, the jewelled case in 
which it was enshrined." He did not long enjoy his 
ill-gotten gains : he died at Brussels in June 1544. 
Sir Thomas Legh is believed to have been a member 
of the well-known family of the Leghs of Lyme, on the 


Cheshire-Derbyshire border. He had held several official 
appointments in London before Cromwell appointed 
him as visitor. He accompanied Layton to York in 
1536, and was, if anything, more active and violent than 
his coadjutor. He, too, profited by his work, and got 
the grant of the great Augustinian Priory of Nostell. 
Knighted in May 1544, he died in the following year, 
and was buried at St. Leonard s, Shoreditch. Dr. John 
London was a Buckinghamshire man, a native of 
Hambledon. Educated at Oxford, he, at one time, 
after some preferment had come to him, was noted at 
Oxford for his assiduity in hunting out and bitterly 
persecuting Protestants and students suspected of hereti 
cal tendencies. He, like Layton, was a pluralist, hold 
ing the livings of Ewelme and Adderbury ; he also held 
prebends in the cathedrals of Lincoln and York. The 
most violent, grasping, and cruel of Cromwell s agents, 
he profited considerably by his work, but in the end 
he became involved in financial difficulties, was con 
victed of perjury, and after standing in the pillory, was 
thrown into the Fleet Prison, where he died in 1543. 
Sir John Ap-Rice was a Welsh lawyer, who appears to 
have entered Cromwell s service in 1535. He was ap 
pointed a visitor in the following year. His concerns 
were not particularly with the North. Cromwell en 
deavoured, as a reward for his services, to get him a 
lucrative appointment on the cathedral staff of Salisbury, 
but the dean and chapter protested so vigorously that 
the matter fell through. However, he secured a grant 
of the lands of the Priory of Brecknock, and presumably 
enjoyed his spoils until his death in 1573. He was the 
only one of the four principal visitors who survived the 
work of destruction more than a few years. 


Some significant light is thrown on the characters of 
these men by the revelations of their relations towards 
each other and with Cromwell. There is a lengthy 


correspondence in existence which shows that Ap-Rice 
sent secret reports to Cromwell, complaining of Legh, 
at that time his fellow-visitor. Legh, says Ap-Rice, is 
" a young man of intolerable elation." He goes about 
followed by twelve liveried servants ; he dresses in the 
very height of the fashion. He browbeats and ill- 
treats the abbots and priors. He shamefully abused 
the Abbots of Bruton and Stanley, and the Prior of 
Bradstock, because they did not meet him at the doors 
of their houses. He is extortionate to the last degree, 
and Ap-Rice thinks murder will be done if he is per 
mitted to go about in this way with his " rufflers." 
There are many other instances of one visitor " telling 
upon " another in this fashion. But in the case of 
Legh, Cromwell appears to have regarded Ap-Rice s 
complaints as so much valuable testimony to Legh s 
capabilities. Legh and Layton, indeed, were the very 
men he wanted fit instruments for the work in hand. 
Moreover, they were his most devoted servants and 
sycophants, scrupling at nothing that would please him. 
They not only took bribes on his behalf, but bribed him 
themselves. There is a letter amongst the Cromwell 
Correspondence in the Record Office in which its writer, 
Layton, offers Cromwell ^100 if he will get him the 
Chancellorship of Salisbury. As to their servility to 
Cromwell, it is amply proved by the general terms of 
their letters, in which the use of pious wishes and of 
Scriptural terms is repulsive. A letter of Layton s, 
quoted in the Home and Foreign Review, 1864, in which 
he invites Cromwell to visit him at his rectory, is a 
good specimen of his obsequiousness. " Surely," he 
writes, " Simeon was never so glad to see Christ his 
master, as I shall be to see your lordship." 


What were the orders and instructions given to these 
men ? On the mere surface, they were simple enough 
and plausible enough. They were to visit the various 


religious houses, inquire into their present condition, 
and the state of their inmates, and report accordingly 
to the Visitor-General. Nothing was to be allowed to 
interfere with their business ; in September 1535 Crom 
well issued a Prohibitory Letter in the King s name, 
forbidding the bishops to visit any monastery, or to 
exercise any jurisdiction, during the visitation of the 
monastic houses then in progress. The visitors, there 
fore, had a clear field. But behind the open instruc 
tions, there were secret ones, imparted, no doubt, in 
private, by Cromwell himself. The visitors were to 
make out a strong case for the report already con 
templated. Where there were no causes of complaint 
they were to devise them. Where there were causes 
they were to exaggerate them. Whatever else they did 
they were to hand in a report which would justify 
Cromwell in his contemplated proceedings. He had, 
of course, material already in hand. The general falling 
off in tone of the religious houses was undoubted. The 
monastic Orders had degenerated. The friars had 
become little better than religious mendicants. There 
was much laxity. Here and there, without doubt, 
there was immorality sharply checked and punished 
by superiors, it is certain, but existing to some prob 
ably very small degree. And the notorious case of 
St. Albans, and of Warham s charges against it, was 
still in men s minds so, too, were other cases. There 
was, in short, a general impression abroad that things 
were not right with the religious houses, therefore, the 
visitors had a plausible groundwork for the report which 
Cromwell desired them to make ; all they had to do 
was to heighten and exaggerate any laxities or short 
comings, especially as regards morals and conduct. But 
there were still other secret instructions. The end to 
be kept in view was the suppression of the houses, and 
the securing of their possessions for the Crown. If the 
visitors could induce peaceable surrender by cajolery, 
bribes, the offer of pensions, let them. But in any 


case Cromwell must be furnished with a report which 
would justify him in appealing to Parliament for per 
mission to carry out the work he had in mind. The 
religious houses must go all he wanted was an excuse 
for their dismissal. 


So now we come to the descent of Cromwell s visitors 
upon Yorkshire, and upon the eight Cistercian com 
munities situate in that county. In the early autumn 
of 1535 Layton was pursuing his work in the South of 
England ; his thoughts turned to the North. He ad 
dressed the following letter to Cromwell, the exact date 
of which is unknown, but it was probably written -in 
September : 

Please yor goodnes to understonde that forasmoche as Yorke 
dioces was not visite sens my Lord Cardinales [Wolsey] tyme and 
many thynges therbe within the saide province now much 
nedefull of reformation and worthy redresse. If yt myghte 
please you therfore nowe to send me into the said province and 
Blitheman yor servant to be regestre we myght well finisshe all 
that province by Michaelmas or sone after. 


It is very evident that the news of what was about to 
happen was spreading through Yorkshire at this time, 
and at once the clamours of would-be sharers in the 
monastic spoils begin to be heard. Cromwell begins to 
be supplicated for appointment. On September 24, 
1535, Sir George Lawson, Knight, of York, Treasurer 
of Berwick, writes to him. He has heard of the visita 
tion that is about to take place he has heard, too, 
that temporal persons are to be employed in the survey 
ing and receipt of the monastic lands. So he hastens 
to ask for a post for himself, old man as he confesses 
himself to be. " Therfor," he writes, " like you to be 
so goode to me as to help and name me to sum and 
suche of those rowmes or offices as ye thynke convenyent 


and as it may stand with your pleasor." If his request 
is granted he will daily pray for the King and for Crom 
well. This is only the first of scores of such letters 
one gets the idea that every squire in Yorkshire was 
eager to get something. But there is other correspon 
dence of another sort. The heads of houses, summoned 
to acknowledge the royal behests, were courageous 
enough in some instances to offer reasons against such 
a course. William, Prior of Bridlington, being at the 
time, he says, " detende with diverse infirmities in my 
body, and in lyke maner feeble of nature," writes on 
October 23, 1535, to Cromwell, who had demanded that 
he should recognize the King s highness as patron and 
founder, beseeching " your gude maistershipe to be gude 
maister to me and your poour cotidiall oratours, my 
brethren, for notwithstandinge the kinges grace his 
noble progenitours titles and clames heretofore mayde 
. . . we have ever benne dismissed clere without any 
interruption in this behalfe nighe this two hundredth 
yeres." But appeals to the past had no weight with 
Cromwell, whose concern was the affairs of the present, 
to be carried out with effect and speed. 

7. AT YORK. 

Layton and Legh journeyed to Yorkshire in January 
1536, and early in the month each writes to Cromwell 
Layton on the 1 3th, Legh on the next day. Layton at 
once reports (though he and his fellow-visitor had not 
been in the county many hours) that " here in Yorkshire 
we fynde gret corruption emongiste persons religious," 
and proceeds to make charges of an especially vile 
nature, which he expresses in Latin. This day, he goes 
on to say, they begin their work with St. Mary s Abbey 
in York, where before ever going there " we suppos 
to fynde muche evile disposition both in the abbot and 
the convent, whereoff, Gode wylling, I shall certify yowe 
in my next letters." He winds up by saying that " no 
corruption or lucre " shall make him swerve from his 


loyalty. Legh, in his letter, tells Cromwell that Layton 
and himself have been with the Archbishop of York, 
" injoyninge him to preache and teache the word of 
God." But they enjoined on His Grace something else, 
which, we may be sure, was more pertinent namely, 
to presently produce to Cromwell his titles to his offices 
and prerogatives, with his grants, privileges, and con 
cessions in the which, adds Legh, when Cromwell has 
read them, " I doo not dowte but that you shall see 
and rede many things worthy reformation." One may 
imagine the state of mind in which prelates of high rank 
received these visitors, who, with all the insolence of 
Jack-in-office, demanded the accounts of their steward 
ship with threats and rudeness. 


On January 19, 1536, Layton and Legh were at 
Fountains, and secured the resignation of William 
Thyrske, the abbot, to whom was granted an annual 
pension of one hundred marks. Next day they conj ointly 
write a letter to Cromwell about the abbot : it is an 
admirable specimen of the style of their communications. 
William Thyrske, they report, is in truth a very fool and 
a miserable idiot. He has greatly dilapidated the house. 
He has wasted the woods. It is notorious that he has 
six mistresses needless to say they describe these 
mythical persons in less polite terms. He has com 
mitted theft and sacrilege. He recently caused his 
chaplain to purloin the sexton s keys, and then stole a 
jewel from the sacristy, a cross of gold set with precious 
stones. He had with him at the time one Warren, a 
goldsmith of the Chepe in London ; he and Warren 
further stole an emerald and a ruby; Warren made 
the abbot believe the ruby to be nothing but a garnet, 
so only paid twenty pounds for it. Also the abbot sold 
plate to Warren without properly weighing it. But they 
have made him resign. And now they have an offer to 
make. If the Earl of Cumberland, they say, only knew 


that the abbacy was vacant, he would labour to get it 
for the cellarer. But they know the man. He is one of 
the monks, Marmaduke Bradley, who is also a prebendary 
of Ripon, " a welthie felowe." He will give Cromwell 
six hundred marks for the appointment and pay at 
once. The firstf ruits to the King is a thousand pounds ; 
Bradley, if Cromwell will appoint him, will pay it 
within three years. And so on, and so on the kinavery 
of the men and of their master is apparent in every line. 
Nor was there much of the old Cistercian simplicity and 
purpose in Marmaduke Bradley, who akeady enjoyed a 
prebend at Ripon worth some six hundred a year of 
bur money, and who was duly appointed by Cromwell, 
and was the last and the most unworthy Abbot of 


Being duly appointed, Bradley begins a correspondence 
with Cromwell, whom he addresses as his " ryght honor 
able and singulre good maister " who shall be assured 
of his " continuall praiers and service." On March 6, 
1536, he writes a long letter to the Vicar-General about 
his predecessor, Abbot William Thyrske, who has, he 
says, left great decay behind him, both in plant, sheep, 
woods, and other store of Fountains. " Of verey treuth," 
he continues, " I fynd never one peny with in this 
howse nor yet to recevey afore May day" therefore 
he asks Cromwell s assistance. Moreover, he says, the 
late abbot ought not to have any pension until he has 
rendered his accounts and restored the money that lies 
in his hands. Even then he ought not to have a pension 
of forty pounds, " for we have a statute in our Religion 
de AWt Resignante, and that is this Abbas qui bene 
rexerit per decennium habent competentem pensionem. " 
He adds further complaints against Thyrske : it is very 
evident that he had been conspiring against him before 
ever Layton and Legh came to Fountains. On March 21 
he writes again to Cromwell, who has suggested that 


lie should give up his prebend of Ripon, which Cromwell 
evidently wishes to bestow elsewhere. Bradley is firm 
enough on this point. " Trewly, sir," he says, " I never 
maid promisse to resigne the same, and of veray trewthe 
this howse yt I am preferred in is so farre in danger all 
maner of ways, that I have rather will to resigne the 
Abbotship then my prebend. For no displeasure to 
your good maistership, I have sufficient cfispensacion 
to have both the Abbotship and the prebend, and rather 
than I resign the prebend I will utterly resigne the 
Abbotship." The truth was that Bradley, who was in 
close touch with Layton and Legh, knew well that 
Fountains was doomed, and that its days could not 
possibly last much longer : he had doubtless been 
secretly told by the visitors that he would be able to 
enjoy his abbacy for a few years, but that the house 
would then share the fate of the smaller foundations, 
and he chose to stand by his comfortable prebend ; that, 
at any rate, seeming to be more secure than his new 
appointment. We hear no more of his being asked to 
resign from Ripon, and he held prebend and abbacy until 
the end. 


And now Layton and Legh began that hurried journey 
through Yorkshire of which an account is furnished in 
a letter, dated February 28, 1536. This letter was 
probably written by Blythman, one of Cromwell s under 
lings, who seems to have accompanied them as registrar 
and secretary. Surely no more hurried journey was 
ever made. It is impossible that the visitors could have 
stayed long at any of the houses visited, for within a 
very short time they covered the whole county, from 
east to west, from north to south. They must, on their 
own showing, have travelled several hundreds of miles, 
yet they accomplished the entire journey, visited scores 
of houses in places far apart, and made their investiga 
tions and examinations, and took the opinions of the 


neighbouring folk, within one month and that in the 
very middle of winter : the feat would be difficult to 
perform in these days of railways and automobiles. And 
the probability is that they literally sped from one house 
to another, made the most perfunctory inquiry at each, 
took no opinions at all from the neighbours, and con 
tented themselves by setting out a bare record of their 
journeyings, accompanied by a certain document which 
we will presently consider. As to their visits to the 
various Cistercian houses, this is all that is recorded in 
Blythman s letter : 

Item from there [Newburgh] to Bylond, off the order off the 
Cystercyensis, of ye same fundacion that the foresayd monastery 
whas and hys off and yt the second yeer after ye fundacion of 
Newbrarow whos sepulcre ys in the chaptyrouss wyndow off 
thyss monastery off ye forsayd lord Mowbray and his wyff on 
myle from [thence]. 

Item to Ryvalles, monkys off the Cystercyene order off ye fyrst 
fundacon off Walter Especke, now my Lord Rosse ys ther fundar. 

Item to Mewsse Abbey off ye Cystercyenes, off ye fundacon 
off le Grosse sum tyme yerle off Albymarle. 

Item to Chrystall abbey of the Cystercyenes off the furst 
fundacyon off Sr. Patffyld Pictaviensis, knyght. 

Item to S alley Abbey of ye Cystercyenes, off the furst fundacon 
of Lord Wyllym Percy ye thyrd after the conquest in ye year 
off our Lord 1140. 

Item to Gervalles, off ye Cystercyenes, apon Your [Uri] flewd, 
fundyd sumtyme in another place now callyd Wensdale by Lord 
Akar but afterwardes by lord Conanne, sonne to Alanne, yerle 
off Rychmond, ye monkes were removed fro that place onto 
this forsayd Gervalles by ye forsayd yeerles sonne and yt by the 
lycence off the sonn of ye lord Akarrs callyd Hervey, and yt 
was in ye yeer off our Lord 1157 ye xv yere off Kyng Stephanne, 
then after was fundar lord Fytheus [Fitzhugh] now Master 
Pare ys ther fundar. 

Item to Fountens abbey off ye cystercienes, off the fundacon 
off Threstonne sumtyme byshope off Yorke which weer in the 
yeer off our Lord 1132. 

Item to Roche Abbey off the Cystercienes, off Lord Buell and 
Turgett now Lord Clyfford ys ther fundar. 



It will be observed that this is nothing but a mere 
itinerary, extracted from the rest. But with this was 
sent to Cromwell a secret document containing the 
foulest and vilest charges against the monastic Orders, 
both monks and nuns, which is not fit for publication. 
This is what Dr. Gairdner has to say of its probabilities 
as a veracious document : " Legh and Layton . . . had 
transmitted piecemeal reports of what they called their 
comperta in the Southern houses to Cromwell. For the 
province of York . . . they made up a Compendium 
compertorium of most extraordinary foulness. ... If 
we are to believe these comperts . . . a large proportion 
of the monasteries of England were little better than 
brothels. There were even nuns who had had children, 
and in several instances by priests. Some of these cases 
may be accounted for by the fact that ladies had found 
retreats in religious houses after personal misfortune 
and disgrace ; and no doubt there were other scandals 
here and there. But [the next two sentences have been 
previously quoted] there are grave reasons for suspect 
ing the whole of these comperts to be a gross exaggera 
tion. Nor can we well believe that visitors cared much 
about truth, who did their work so hurriedly. Certain 
it is that many of the houses which stood worst in their 
reports were afterwards declared to bear a fair cha 
racter by gentlemen of the neighbourhood, specially 
commissioned afterwards to report on them for other 
purposes. Moreover, we know that the visitors reports 
to Cromwell were secret, and had a distinct object in 


With the itinerary and the " comperts " was forwarded 
another document, from which some extracts may be 
given without offence, though the thing in its entirety 
bears evidence of the foulness of mind in which it 
originated. One of the instructions given to Layton and 
Legh by Cromwell was that they should search for 



special objects of superstition. They forwarded a list 
of such, objects which they professed to have discovered 
in Yorkshire. It is a curious feature of this list that 
according to it nearly every such object of superstition 
related to one thing, and one thing only safety in 
childbirth. It is a curious thing, too, that in the avail 
able records of the houses said to possess these objects 
there is no mention of any such possession. The only 
conclusion one can come to, after considering the evidence, 
is that in this list, too, what was not fabrication was 
exaggeration the whole document bears the marks of 
invention. As to the objects of superstition found at 
the Cistercian houses, they were set down as follows : 

At Roche an Image of Christ Crucified. 

At Meaux a cingulum of St. Bernard, sometimes lent to 

pregnant women. 

At Rievaulx= a girdle of St. Aelred, helpful to lying-in women. 
At Fountains a girdle of Our Lady. 

At Jervaulx a girdle of Our Lady, safe for lying-in women. 
At Kirkstall a cingulum for pregnancy. 


Now we come to the matter of the famous Black Book, 
concerning which there has been much controversy. 
Layton and Legh concluded their visitation about the 
end of February 1536. Henry VIII s Long Parliament 
was just then assembled for what was to be its last 
session. According to some writers Froude amongst 
them the charges brought by Cromwell s agents against 
the monastic Orders were set forth in a document called 
the Black Book, which was produced to the members 
of that Parliament, and produced so much disgust that 
one and all demanded that monks and nuns should be 
swept away forthwith. Also, according to these writers, 
this Black Book was in existence until the reign of 
Queen Mary, who, they say. caused it to be destroyed. 
On this point we will take the evidence of Dr. Gairdner, 
as the most expert authority we can turn to. " Writers 


of a later generation," lie says (History of the English 
Church, iv, 166-67), " speak of a certain Black Book, 
supposed to have been produced in this Parliament, 
which contained a register of monastic enormities ; but 
there is no appearance that any document of the kind 
ever existed except the Compendium compertorium, and 
certainly this, in which some of the largest monasteries 
were the worst defamed, affords no warrant for the 
extraordinary insinuation that vice prevailed invariably 
where the numbers fell below twelve, and that the great 
monasteries were better regulated. So it is evident that 
the Parliament took the King s word as to the character 
of the disclosures, and passed the Bill because they were 
required to do so. Nothing else alleged to have been 
discovered in the monasteries could really have gone 
before Parliament or the public except certain vague 
statements that immoralities were practised in a large 
number of houses." 


The Bill to which reference is here made was brought 
before Parliament on February 4, 1536, and was quickly 
passed into law. No accurate account of the proceed 
ings is available, and it is not known if there was any 
opposition to the measure 27 Henry VIII, cap. 28 
which is entitled, " An Acte concernynge the suppression 
or dyssolucon of certeyne Relygyous houses and given 
to the kinges highnes and to his heres for ever." The 
preamble runs as follows and it must be remembered 
in reading it that the measure was based on the in part 
wholly false, in part grossly exaggerated, reports of 
Layton and Legh : 

Forasmuch as manifest sin, vicious, carnal, and abominable 
living, is daily used and committed among the little and small 
abbeys, priories, and other religious houses of monks, canons, 
and nuns, where the congregation of such religious persons is 
under the number of twelve, whereby the governors of such 
religious houses and their convents spoil, consume, destroy, and 


utterly waste their churches, monasteries, principal houses, farms, 
and granges, to the high displeasure of Almighty God, the slander 
of true religion, and to the great infamy of the King s Highness 
and of the realm, if redress should not be had thereof ; and 
albeit that many continual visitations hath been heretofore had 
by the space of two hundred- years and more, for all honest 
and charitable reformation of such unthrifty, carnal, and abomin 
able living ; yet nevertheless, little or no amendment is hitherto 
had, but their vicious living shamelessly increaseth and aug 
ment eth, and by a cursed custom is so rooted and infested, that 
a great multitude of the religious persons in such small houses 
do rather choose to rove abroad in apostasy than to conform 
them to the observation of true religion ; so that without such 
small houses be utterly suppressed, and the religious persons 
therein committed to great and honourable monasteries of 
religion in this realm, where they may be compelled to live 
religiously for the reformation of their lives, there can be no 
reformation in this behalf : in consideration hereof, the King s 
most royal Majesty, being Supreme Head on Earth, under God, 
of the Church of England, daily finding and devising the increase, 
advancement, and exaltation of true doctrine and virtue in the 
said Church, to the only glory of God, and the total extirpating 
and destruction of vice and sin ; having knowledge that the 
premises be true, as well by accounts of his late visitation as 
by sundry credible informations ; considering also that divers 
great monasteries of this realm, wherein, thanks be to God, 
religion is right well kept and observed, be destitute of such 
full numbers of religious persons as they ought and may keep : 
hath thought good that a plain declaration should be made of 
the premises, as well to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal as to 
other his loving subjects the Commons in this present Parliament 
assembled. Whereupon, the said Lords and Commons, by a 
great deliberation, finally be resolved that it is and shall be 
much more to the pleasure of Almighty God, and for the honour 
of this his Realm, that the possessions of such spiritual houses, 
now spent, and spoiled, and wasted for increase and maintenance 
of sin, should be converted to better uses ; and the unthrifty 
religious persons so spending the same be compelled to reform, 
their lives. 



There are certain obvious observations to be made 
on this preamble. The fixing of a definite number 
of inmates twelve shows an arbitrary design. The 
number of religious houses coming within its purpose 
was considerable so were the possessions of such houses. 
Many of the Yorkshire houses came just within the 
200 limit : the design was, of course, to sweep them 
into the net. The complaint is only laid against the 
small houses. But the reports of Layton and Legh are 
chiefly addressed against the great houses, spoken of in 
the preamble as " great and honourable," and, later, 
as places wherein " religion is right well kept and 
observed." Obviously there is a contradiction here ; 
and if the persons complained of were so far gone in 
" carnal and abominable living," why introduce them 
into communities admittedly free from the vices which 
the folk to be admitted were accused of practising ? 
Altogether, this preamble bears the marks of as much 
falsity as was evidenced in the reports on which it was 


Parliament, however, gave no attention to these incon 
sistencies. It passed preamble and provisions evidently 
without question. The provisions were drastic. The 
lands and possessions of all religious houses having an 
income of less than ,200 a year were to be given to the 
King. The dispossessed were either to be distributed 
amongst the greater houses, or turned out on the world 
" with permission to live honestly and virtuously." 
" Some convenient charity " was to be allowed them. 
Superiors were to be given a pension in accordance with 
their degree. All debts were to be paid out of the 
suppressed house s means, of course. Finally, thirty- 
two houses were to be allowed a little longer life at 
the King s discretion. As to the pensions, the ordinary 


members received about four pounds ; the superiors, 
nominally, about sixty. 


At the same time was passed an Act (27 Henry VIII, 
cap. 27) for establishing a Court of Augmentations. It 
set forth that the King having now had secured to him, 
his heirs, and successors for ever, the lands, rents, tithes, 
pensions, hereditaments, ornaments, jewels, goods, cattle, 
and debts of the houses affected in the accompanying 
Act, all such properties should be handed over to a 
court of record having a great seal and a privy seal, 
and consisting of certain officials duly named and ap 
pointed. The next thing was to appoint commissioners 
to examine the monasteries affected, and to take pos 
session of their property. On April 24, 1536, certain 
persons were duly appointed as commissioners for York 
shire. They were Sir Ralph Ellerker the younger, 
knight ; Sir Marmaduke Constable, knight ; Sir George 
Lawson, knight (Cromwell had evidently not forgotten 
his application of the previous September) ; Sir Roger 
Cholmley the elder, knight ; and William Bapthorpe, 
Robert Challoner, Leonard Beckwith, and Hugh Fuller, 
esquires. They received their instructions at the same 
time, and forthwith began their work. In the Cotton 
MSS. there is a list of the Yorkshire houses which came 
under their control. Some were very poor. Nunburn- 
holme was only worth 8 is. nd. ; Yedingham, only 
21 i6s. ; Esholt, only .13 5^. 4^. ; Arthington, only 
.11 8.r. 4^. But others came near the .200 standard. 
Holy Trinity, York, was worth 169 qs. 10^. ; Marton, 
.151 5.T. 4^. ; the Charterhouse at Hull, .174 iSs. $d. ; 
Warter, .143 js. Sd. ; Malton, .197 195. 2d. ; Coverham, 
.160 iSs. $d. Out of the nearly fifty Yorkshire houses 
dissolved in 1536 the spoils must have been con 



And now began or made itself openly manifest 
the rush of those anxious and ravenous to have their 
share. Nothing is more noticeable, nothing more revolt 
ing in the whole history of the Suppression, than the 
greed shown on all sides by the Yorkshire gentry of 
that day. Perhaps, however, there is something still 
more revolting the sickening, sycophantic tone of their 
letters to Cromwell. Let us read some of these letters : 
Mr. Clay prints several of them in his Suppression Papers. 
Here is a typical one from Sir George Darcy, eldest son 
of the Thomas Lord Darcy, who was executed for his 
share in the Pilgrimage of Grace. This George Darcy 
was subsequently restored to the title as Lord Darcy 
of Aston. He had married Dorothy Melton, a descen 
dant of the Hiltons, sometime lords of Swine. 

April i, 1536 

After my most dewe and humble recommendations unto your 
honourable maistership, pleasitli it vow to be advertised, I have 
written to the kynges maiestie to be good and gracious lorde 
unto me as concernynge the preferrement of the nonery of Swyne 
Abbay, whereof my wif is f oundres after the decesse of hir father, 
besechyng your honorable maistership of your lovyng favour 
therin that I may haue the preferrement thereof either in ferme 
or otherwise as may stand with your pleasure and help, and if 
there be any pleasure or service I may doo yow commaunde me 
as yowr owyn. Syr, I require yow to gyve credence to my 
brother, Syr Arthure Darcy therein. Wrytten at Gayforth the 
first day of Aprile by your assured and most feytbfull frend and 
his poor GEORGE DARCY, Kt. 


Here is another from Sir Henry Everingham, head of 
an old family which had been settled at Birkin for many 

April 4, 1536 

Ryght Wyrshypfull . . . yfE ther be or shalbe eny such 
direcon takyn for abbays that temporall men shal have eny 


comodyte therby I desyer yor maystershyppe for my prefer 
ment in thatt behalfe, to conclude ther be also dyvers abbays 
in thys centre whyche haue had certayn landes goven theym by 
myn ansytorys for certayn dewtyes whyche they haue omytted 
and neclecytt wherein also I desyer yor maystershypp off yor 
gud and favorable helpe, and I shall gladly accordyng my lyttyll 
power desire yor gentyll kyndnes therin and yor furthur pleasur. 



Four days later Sir John Nevile, a younger son of 
Sir John Nevile of Liversedge, and founder of the Chevet 
branch of that very ancient family, writes to Cromwell 
with a fulsome show of flattery and far too many pious 
wishes to be wholly sincere. 

April 8, 1536 

Ryght honerabull my speciall and singuler good M r I hertely 
comende me to you, desyring to her of your good prossperes 
helthe of the wyche I besych Jhesu long to contenew to hys 
plesur your hartye desyre and cumford, thankyng your m r shyp 
for your kyndnes shewyd to me at altymes, for the wyche I am 
bond to hon to you my services so long ows leyff, ser, plesys hyt 
your mastershyp to understand that wer ows hyt hys let me to 
be acertenyd that Ser Thomas Wyntwort, knyght marscall, hathe 
grant of the kyngys hyghnes of the priore of Ampall for hys 
monay, Ser, in the honor of God be so good m r to my son Gerves 
Clyfton, on of the kyngys wardes whyche I hade of the kyng 
for on of my doghters, that he may have hyt for hys monay, 
ows anoder man schall, and he schal fynd sufficiant suretie for 
the perfyrmacion of all syche comandys ows you schall demand 
of hym, for hys ancetors have beyn euermor fonders of that 
plaise, wer for in the honor of God be so good Mr to me and to 
my son that he may have hyt, doyng for the kyngys avanteg 
so larghe ows a nother man wyl do, and you schalbe ows sure 
of hym and me next unto the kyng ows to one man levyng the 
deys of owr lyeff. Ser, I umbly desyre you to pardon me that 
I am so bold to besyche your mastershyp to haue me in remem- 
berans emonges all other for Wallyng Wellys ows I wrot to M r 
Richard your [nephew] or some thyng hellys that hyt schall 
plesse your maystershyp to help me to, ows as knowys Jhesu so 
haue you in hys blessyd kepyng. JOHN NEVYELL, Kt. 



It was not only knights of the shire and country 
squires who desired to have a share in the spoil or to 
put forward claims in respect of lands given by their 
ancestors to the Church. Even the Archbishop of York, 
Lee, does not think it beneath him to humbly sue the 
Vicar-General for his favour, though, to be sure, it is 
not for himself that he pleads, but in defence of the 
privileges of his See. 

S r [he writes to Cromwell, April 23, 1536] I entierlie praye 
you to bee good to me for ij places of the patronaige of the 
Archbusshopes of Yorke, that if you shall thinke opon suche 
considerations as I shall alledge, that I haue reason to sue for 
them; that you will helpe me with your good word, that theye 
bee not suppressed. The tone of them named Saincte Oswaldes 
is not of foundation a monasterie of religiouse men but is libsra 
capella archiepiscopi. No man hath title in it but the arch- 
bushoppe ; the prior thereof in removable at my pleasure and 
accomptable to me, and the archbushoppe maye put there, if 
he woU, secular prestes, and so wold I have doone at my entre, 
if I had not ther founde oone of myne acquayntaunce, whome 
I judged meete to bee ther undre mee. . . . The toodre is called 
Hexham upon the borders of Scotland. 

Yor owne ever assured 



The Archbishop s entreaty saved neither Nostell Priory 
(the St. Oswald s to which he refers) nor Hexham. Nor 
did a joint letter written by Sir Ralph Ellerker the 
younger, M. Constable, Leonard Beckwith, and Hugh 
Fuller to Cromwell from Swine, on May 28, avail the 
Carthusians of Hull, for whom it pleaded. Few pleas 
were made to the Vicar-General on behalf of the 
threatened communities : most of the letters sent to 
him betray the writers eagerness to get something for 
themselves. Here is another typical request from Sir 
William Gascoigne which, by the by, was unsuccessful, 


as the grant he asked for was eventually made to Lord 

June 17, 1536 

... I most humbly desyr yor mastership to be good master 
unto me that if the abbay callyd Nonmonkton, which is a nunnery 
and of my ancestors fondacon, goo to the Kinges Angmentacon 
thatt I may haue the. preferment therof, paying to the Kynges 
grace as muych as oder wyll. And also I humbly desyr yor 
mastership to be good master to me in all my causes, and if ther 
be any service that I can do yor mastership I shalbe att yor 
commaundement att all tyme as knoweth Almighty God whom 
kepe you long in helth. 

By yours at all your comandement, 



i Finally in our specimens of requests Ralph Nevile, 
fourth Earl of Westmorland, puts in his plea, in which 
he was successful. 

\~* _ _ 1536 

T Sir, I beseche you haue me in remembrans touching thabbay 
of Blaunchlond and the pryorye of the nonnes of Keldhom and 
my old suyte, and I wolle do therfor as any other wolle. 


According to the lists given in the Appendix to 
Gairdner s History of the English Church in the Sixteenth 
Century, 215 houses of men were suppressed in 1536, 
and 103 houses of women. Of these several obtained 
licences to continue, but they shared in the fate of all 
the other houses in 1538-39-40. Out of the 215 houses 
of men, forty were of the Cistercian Order. But of the 
eight Cistercian houses in Yorkshire, only one fell in 
1536. Gairdner, indeed, includes it in the list of houses 
suppressed by attainder in 1537. But Mr. Clay in his 
Suppression Papers of the Yorkshire monasteries, gives 
the date definitely as 1536, and in the accounts of the 
Receiver, Leonard Beckwith, made out from the Feast 
of St. Michael the Archangel 1535 to the same feast 


1536, he speaks of the goods, lead, and bells as having 
been already sold to Sir Arthur Darcy, knight. The 
particulars in the Suppression Papers are few. The 
abbey is stated to have been founded by William, third 
Lord Percy. The reason for its suppression is that it is 
not worth ^200 per annum. Its valuation is ^147 $s. iod. 
One pension is mentioned that to Thomas Bolton, 
the twenty-third abbot (last abbot but one), who is to 
have 20 a year. According to Leonard Beckwith s 
accounts, Salley appears to have been poorest of all the 
Cistercian houses in Yorkshire, not only in revenue and 
possessions, but in such matters as plate and jewels, 
which he returns as of a total value of only 72. 


Long before the winter of 1536 came indeed before 
autumn was fairly set in the commissioners and 
receivers were hard at work in the destruction of these 
smaller houses. The plate, jewels, vestments, office 
books, furniture, and domestic goods were seized and 
removed ; the lead and the bells were taken ; the bare 
walls of cloister and church were in many instances at 
once turned into quarries, from whence farmers were 
permitted to fetch stone for the building or repairing 
of barns, granaries, stables, and pigsties. The country 
people without a doubt helped in the various spoliations, 
and at the same time resented the conduct of those 
primarily responsible for them. Ominous growlings 
began to be heard in the North perhaps, at first, Crom 
well heard nothing of them in London. But in September 
a certain event occurred in Northumberland which might - 
have warned him of what was coming. The Priory of 
Hexham, for which Lee, Archbishop of York, had pleaded 
in vain to the Vicar-General, stood in the midst of a 
bleak and lonely country, and had shown itself to be 
of special value, not only to the people of its neighbour 
hood, but to travellers going into Scotland. When the 
news of the Dissolution came, the Nortlmmberland folk 


determined that nothing should be done at Hexham, 
and the Augustinian canons of the priory were encou 
raged to make armed resistance to Cromwell s agents. 
What followed is told by Raine in his Priory of Hexham 
(Surtees Society, vols. xliv-xlvi), in which he reprints 
a document giving the Government account of the 
rising. " Whereas," runs this account, " Lionel Gray, 
Robert Collingwood, William Green, and James Rokeby, 
commissioners for the dissolution of the monasteries 
within the county aforesaid [Northumberland], the 28th 
day of the month of September, in the 28th year of 
our sovereign lord King Henry VIII, associated with 
their ordinary company, were riding towards the said 
monastery of Hexham, there to execute the King s most 
dread commandment of dissolution . . . being in their 
journey at Delston, three miles from the same monastery, 
were credibly informed that the said religious persons 
had prepared them with guns and artillery meet for 
war, with people in the same house and to defend and 
keep the same with force." Gray and Collingwood rode 
on to Hexham, and arriving there, " did see many 
persons assembled with bills, halberts, and other defence- 
able weapons . . . the common bell of the town was 
rung," and the townsfolk assembled round the priory. 
One of the canons " being in harness " informed the 
commissioners that " we shall die all, or that ye shall 
have the house." Gray and Collingwood warned him, 
and went back ; the commissioners retired to Cor bridge. 
Next day " the canons, being all in harness, associated 
with a great company of tenants and servants . . . did 
issue forth of the monastery in defenceable array, by 
two together, all in harness, and so did walk from the 
monastery to a place called the green, towards where 
the commissioners did meet, and there stood in array 
with their weapons in their hands until the commis 
sioners were past out of sight." So there was no dissolu 
tion of Hexham at that time, but not many months 
had elapsed before certain of the canons were hanged 


at the gates of the house which they and the people of 
the town had resolved to defend. 


Before this ominous incident took place something of 
a similar nature had happened at Salley, where the 
Cistercians began the resistance which eventually resulted 
in the execution of three of the Cistercian abbots of 
Yorkshire. The first turning out of the community at 
Salley appears to have taken place early in May, but 
before the rising at Hexham, the Abbot of Salley and 
his monks, some twenty in number, had been forcibly 
restored by the men of the neighbourhood, who, accord 
ing to an account in the Chapter House Book, wherein 
Salley is spoken of as being " the charitable relief of these 
parts," and standing in a mountain country and among 
their forests, bound themselves together, in company 
with certain other folk of the Lancashire and Westmor 
land borders, to resist any further attempts on the 
part of the commissioners. The Earl of Derby marched 
across to Craven to put down this insurrection, and in 
October the King himself writes to him about Salley, 
giving him instructions of the nature of which he leaves 
no doubt. He is to go with all his forces to the " bor- 
dures of Lancasher," and especially "to the said abbey 
of Salley . . . and if you shall find the late abbot and 
monks thereof remaining in the possession of the house 
... we will that ye take the said abbot and monks 
with their assistants forth with violence, and without 
any manner of delay, in their monks apparel cause them 
to be hanged up as right arrant traitors and movers of 
insurrection and sedition, accordingly having special 
regard throughout all the country and parts about yu 
that no towne or village begin to assemble or gather 
together, but that they may with the sword be imme 
diately repressed to the terrible example of all others." 
The hand is Henry s, but the spirit is Cromwell s, who 
doubtless insisted on a rigorous carrying out of his 


policy, and at the same time was probably secretly 
pleased that these minor outbreaks would give him 
reasonable excuse for further dissolutions. That the 
Earl of Derby did not carry out these instructions there 
and then, however, is proved by the fact that the 
Cistercians were still in possession in some sort in the 
following February, when Henry wrote again command 
ing that they " be tied up without further delay or 
ceremony." But in the meantime the first of the 
Northern rebellions had broken out and been crushed 
by statecraft and cunning, and with all the savagery 
of which Henry was capable. 



THE armed rebellion which, broke out in the North of 
England in the autumn of 1536, and was taken part in 
by men of every rank of society, from the proudest 
peer to the meanest peasant, sprang from more than 
one cause. It has come to be chiefly regarded as an 
insurrection arising from religious differences : in truth, 
its causes were various. Certainly, religion was the 
principal one. The folk of the North were sincerely 
attached to the old forms and ways of religion : to 
their simple minds the recent events suggested the utter 
extirpation of the faith which their forefathers had 
associated with the names of Hilda of Whitby, and 
Cuthbert of Durham, and Wilfrid of Ripon, and a 
hundred North Country saints. They saw the smaller 
religious houses stripped and desecrated ; they became 
aware that the same fate was in store for the greater 
ones ; when their turn had come and gone, it would, 
said many, be the turn of the minsters of York and 
Beverley, and Ripon, and of the parish churches in 
which so many generations had taken such pride. The 
coarseness and violence of Cromwell s agents and com 
missioners during the summer of 1536 had produced a 
terrible impression. Men whose piety was deep set had 
seen the agents followers ride through the villages and 
valleys tricked out in the sacred vestments which they 
had torn from sacristies, and often from the celebrants 
at the altars ; they had heard of the beating of church 



plate into hilts for swords. They had stood by and 
seen the religious turned out homeless and penniless, 
and a rising flood of indignation had gradually swept 
across the country, from the Irish Channel to the 
North Sea, and from Trent to Tweed. In the whole 
of ancient Northumbria, Henry, in the October of 
1536, probably had not one loyal subject in a 


But there were other matters. The upper classes of 
the North were seething with discontent. Discontent, 
indeed, had existed amongst them for some time. They 
had been tyrannically treated by the Crown in the days 
of Wolsey : they had seen Wolsey fall, and themselves 
faced with a far worse tyrant in his one-time servant, 
Thomas Cromwell. Lord Darcy put the matter in plain 
words when he turned with sudden fierceness on the 
Vicar-General as they stood at the Council table. " It 
is thou, Cromwell, that art the very special and chief 
cause of all this rebellion and wickedness, and dost daily 
travail to bring us to our ends and strike off our heads. 
I trust that ere thou die, though thou wouldst procure 
all the noblest heads in the kingdom to be stricken off, 
yet there shall one head remain that shall strike off 
thy head ! " The striking off of the heads of the North 
Country noblemen was, indeed, part of the policy of 
Henry and his Minister. Percies and Neviles, Howards 
and Montagues, all were to be wiped out. Norfolk 
himself, sent first to do work on them, was destined 
for their fate when he had served the tyrant s purpose. 
It was, in essence, a vendetta, this campaign against 
the great houses of the North ; a final chapter in that 
book of English history which began before the Wars 
of the Roses. Not a nobleman north of Trent but felt 
the tyranny of the King, and suffered from the cold, 
calculating designs of the Minister the power of the 
religious Orders was not more surely slipping away from 


its holders than the old privileges of their rank were 
being ruthlessly torn from the peers. 


While the Churchmen and the noblemen had their 
grievances, the gentry and the poor folk had theirs. 
In 1536 the country gentlemen a very considerable 
portion of the community in the North were smarting 
under the provisions of the recently passed Statute of 
Uses. By the common law of England it had not been 
allowed to leave real estate landed property to any 
but the eldest son or his successor. This had been 
evaded by employing uses the property left to the 
eldest was saddled with the duty of paying a portion 
to the use of the younger sons. Much confusion had 
arisen. There had been uses on lives. The Statute of 
Uses enacted that the holder of the use should be 
declared owner of the property, and for his benefit 
legislative title was created, and at the same time uses 
were forbidden. This law was subsequently altered, 
but for the time being the landed gentry who usually 
had many acres and few shillings were prevented from 
doing anything to help their younger children. This 
was the chief and a most serious complaint of the 
country squire class. That of the folk beneath them 
related to farming matters. Arable land was being 
turned into pasture. The new race of landowners had 
begun to work their properties, as mercantile businesses 
were worked in the towns, careless of the feelings of 
the old-fashioned farmers and labourers. Where abun 
dant crops had sprung up, the country was given over 
to sheep-walks. Where a dozen men had found employ 
ment, now only one was wanted. Poverty appeared 
and henceforth there would be no relief at the doors of 
the abbeys. Hodge was ready to fall in with the squire, 
and both to throng to the banner of my lord, with the 
liated Cromwell as the objective of their fury and 
indignation. It mattered nothing that Cromwell as 


representing the Crown was not responsible for all the 
grievances : he was in the forefront of the new element 
which was rapidly submerging the old institutions, and 
he loomed so largely and with such terrible significance 
that men scarce saw beyond him. In all the complaints 
that were voiced, Cromwell s name is always heard, 
repeated with anger and execration. 


The insurrection broke out in Lincolnshire early in 
October 1536. In one of Henry VIII s letters (printed 
in Letters and Papers, temp. Henry VIII) he speaks of 
the county of Lincoln as being " one of the most brute 
and beastly of the whole realm." Certainly, the Lincoln 
shire folk were at that time a somewhat lawless race, 
and since the days of Hereward the Wake had lived 
amongst their fens after their own fashions. This first 
rising appears to have been entirely of popular origin, 
started by the country-folk, who, seeing the Bishop of 
Lincoln s chancellor, and Henneage, one of the com 
missioners, at Louth, got the idea into their heads that 
they were about to pillage the treasury of the parish 
church. The rising quickly spread : the men of Louth, 
fetching the great cross out of the church, and using 
it as their standard, marched out to raise the adjoining 
towns and villages. Here in Lincolnshire the gentry 
had little or nothing to do with the rising. They took 
refuge in the Close at Lincoln ; they were in danger of 
being murdered by the insurgents. But the movement 
came to nothing, and was quickly suppressed. There 
was no open fighting. From Horncastle the rebels dis 
patched a petition to the King : its provisions are note 
worthy. It demanded (i) the restoration of the religious 
Orders to their houses ; (2) the remitting of the late 
subsidy; (3) the repeal of the Statute of Uses (one 
would think that the country gentry must have had 
some share in this demand) ; (4) the deprivation of the 
heretic bishops ; and (5) the removal of " villein blood " 


(in other words, of Cromwell) from the Council. But 
by this time troops under the Duke of Suffolk and Sir 
John Russell were on the scene, and soon afterwards 
Suffolk held the King s answer to the petition. Henry 
refused everything peremptorily. They were presump 
tuous, these " rude commons of one shire," he wrote ; 
their requests were " contrary to God s law and man s 
law." Then came the arrest of ringleaders, and the 
dispersal of their followers : the Lincolnshire rising was 


But a more formidable movement had already begun 
in the East Riding of Yorkshire. While matters were 
hanging fire in Lincolnshire there came into the county, 
by way of the ferry across the Humber, at Barton, one 
Robert Aske, one of the younger sons of the old family 
of Askes of Aughton, on the Derwent, whose elder 
brother then held the family estate, and who was him 
self a barrister, in good practice at Westminster, and 
owner of some landed property in his native county. 
He had been staying in .Yorkshire, on a hunting-party, 
and was now on his way back to London by way of the 
Eastern Counties. In Lincolnshire he was met by certain 
of the insurgents, who, knowing him for a person of 
importance, not only forced him to take the oath of 
fealty to their cause, but placed him at the head of a 
considerable body of rebels. He seems to have -done 
something towards organizing the movement in Lincoln 
shire, but with its failure came the end of his very small 
connexion with it, and he returned to Yorkshire, instead 
of continuing his journey to London, where, indeed, it 
would not then have been safe for him to go. By the 
time of his return, the insurrection had broken out in 
the East Riding, extending from the Ouse to Hull and 
Beverley, and everywhere men of all ranks were*assem- 
bling, much more serious in intent than the easily cowed 
commons cf Lincolnshire. Aske was back in his native 


Howdenshire by October 9, and within a few days was 
at the head of several thousands of men, and marching 
on York. On October 15 the insurgents were at the 
gates, 20,000 strong ; the men of each wapentake 
formed into a company, headed by the cross from one 
of their parish churches. Aske demanded free passage 
from the lord mayor and aldermen, and at five o clock 
next day entered the city at the head of 5000 horsemen. 
The best order was kept, everything demanded by the 
insurgents was promptly paid for by them ; the pro 
posals of the leaders as to the objects of the rising were 
published, and already some of the dispossessed monks 
and nuns came flocking back to their houses. 


By this -time the rising was general all over the North : 
of all the Yorkshire castles, only Skipton, Scarborough, 
and Pontefract were held for the King. Aske s atten 
tion turned to Pontefract as the most important place, 
and thither he repaired at the head of a small force, 
and was admitted to parley with Lord Darcy, Con 
stable of Pontefract, and an influential company there 
assembled with him. This conference forms a note 
worthy episode in the story of the Pilgrimage of Grace, 
and it is important that we should know what took 
place at it. With Darcy were Edward Lee, Archbishop 
of York ; Dr. Magnus, a member of the King s Council ; 
Sir George Darcy ; Sir Robert Nevile, and a great 
many leading knights and gentlemen of the county. 
They assembled in the state chamber of the castle to 
hear what Aske had to say, and he addressed them at 
considerable length on the various grievances for which 
he and his followers desired redress. He concluded by 
requiring those present to join the movement, adding, 
that if they refused, he had the means to make them. 
Darcy asked the Archbishop to reply, but Lee waived 
his privilege, preferring to hear Darcy speak first. Darcy 
then told Aske that he neither could nor would deliver 



Pontefract Castle it was the King s. Lee then spoke, 
and was more politic : he desired to know what Aske 
would have them do ? Aske replied- that the Arch 
bishop and Lord Darcy must influence the King to grant 
their petition, and in the meantime advise and help 
the insurgents. Lee thereupon answered that if he was 
to be a mediator he must remain neutral, and asked 
for safe conduct from the castle, which Aske refused, 
with some indignation : he had no faith in Lee. Darcy 
begged for time to consider matters : finally a truce was 
arranged : it was to last until the following evening, 
Friday, October 20. When the time was out, Darcy 
asked for more time, hoping that relief would arrive. 
Aske refused, whereupon Darcy offered 20 if the time 
were extended until nine o clock next morning. Aske 
agreed to make no assault on the castle until eight 
o clock. But Darcy and those with him had already 
agreed to yield if no help came, and as none was forth 
coming during the night, the castle was handed over 
early next morning, Saturday, October 20, and those 
within it took the Pilgrim s oath. 


Pontefract was now the centre-point and rallying- 
place of the insurgents, who began to assemble there 
from all over the North of England. Disaffection had 
gained ground in every northern county. The reasons 
for it, as has already been pointed out, were various. 
Its character varied in different centres. In Cumber 
land and Westmorland the grievances were against the 
enclosure Acts and unpopular landlords. In Durham 
and Northumberland the King s treatment of the great 
Percy family was the chief cause of complaint. In 
Yorkshire, especially in the western dales, the revolt 
arose mainly from religious and social causes. But 
from whatever cause, the discontent was deep. By the 
time Aske had secured Pontefract Castle and the adhe 
rence of those in it, few places in the North were on the 


King s side. Scarborough, Skipton, and Chillingham 
were held for Henry ; Newcastle, Berwick, and Carlisle 
were doubtful. But while they were united in general 
disaffection, the insurgents were not at one as regards 
their aims. " There were two distinct sets of agitators," 
observe the authors of The Pilgrimage of Grace and the 
Exeter Conspiracy, " whose aims were sometimes almost 
antagonistic. First, there was the religious movement 
which usually centred in some monastery Hexham, 
Sawley, Furness, or Holme Cultram. . . . Second, there 
was the social movement directed chiefly against raised 
rents and enclosures. . . . The leaders of the religious 
insurrection . . . Aske and Darcy and the friars seem 
originally to have had little or nothing to do with the 
social movement, and though they tried to direct it 
to their own ends they were rather alarmed by it." 


But with the surrender of Pontefract the movement 
was fairly launched. At a council following the sur 
render Lord Darcy and Sir Robert Constable were pro 
claimed heads of the Pilgrimage. But the real leader 
was Robert Aske, whose proclamations were sent out 
broadcast, with copies of the oath. He and Constable 
immediately began to drill the insurgent bands which 
came marching into Pontefract " every hour." And 
while this was going on, Thomas Miller, Lancaster 
Herald, came to Pontefract, sent by the Earl of Shrews 
bury to read to the Yorkshire rebels the proclamation 
which had already effectually dispersed the insurgents 
of Lincolnshire. Miller left an account of this visit. 
After various preliminaries he was conducted to the 
great chamber of the castle, where he found Archbishop 
Lee, Lord Darcy, Sir Robert Constable, and other 
dignitaries, and, prominent amongst these, Aske himself, 
" keeping his port and countenance as though he had 
been a great prince." Lancaster Herald offered to read 
his message to the Archbishop and Darcy. They directed 


him to Aske, who boldly took it from him, " read it 
openly without reverence," and telling Miller he would 
give him his answer " of his own wit," informed him 
that he would not allow him to discharge his mission 
either at the market cross or amongst the people, who 
were all of one accord with him, " clearly intending to 
see a reformation or else to die in those causes." Miller 
asked what the causes might be : Aske promptly 
answered him they were risen for restitution to Christ s 
Church of all its rights and to clear the wrongs done 
to it ; also for the putting down of vile blood from the 
King s Council ; to effect these things they were going 
on pilgrimage to London. Then Lancaster Herald was 
safely sent out of the town, Aske commanding Lord 
Darcy to give him " two crowns of five shillings to 
reward, whether I would or no." And on that same day 
Sir Thomas Percy marched into Pontefract at the head 
of 10,000 men. These came from the north-east parts 
of the county, and beyond : next day, William Stapleton 
brought a great host from Beverley. The mustering 
was great. Five thousand came from the bishopric 
of Durham under three peers Latimer, Nevile, and 
Lumley : with them came the great banner of St. 
Cuthbert ; these pilgrims, too, were the first to assume 
the famous badge of the Five Wounds of Christ, which 
device was shown on the Pilgrimage banner. By the 
last week of October Aske and his fellow-leaders were 
in command of a vast armed force, and in readiness to 
march forward to Doncaster, beyond which, across the 
Don, the King s forces lay under the Duke of Norfolk. 


It is now time to find out what share the Cistercians, 
and particularly certain of their abbots, took in this 
rising, and what part they played in its rapidly unfold 
ing drama. It goes without saying that by instinct 
and tradition the Order would be bitterly opposed to 
the recent royal policy. The monasteries generally were 


regarded as outposts of the papacy, and especially those 
which however long ago had had a foreign origin. 
Here and there were time-servers amongst their superiors 
men like Marmaduke Bradley and- many other abbots 
and priors, who were ready to surrender their houses 
in return for comfortable pensions for themselves. But 
as a whole the monastic bodies were all for the cause 
championed by Aske and his fellow-pilgrims, and though 
it is doubtful if the monks threw themselves into the 
movement with anything like the zeal shown by the 
friars, it is certain that they were active supporters, 
and from the Crown standpoint laid themselves open 
to the charges of treason and sedition afterwards brought 
against them. Particularly prominent were the Augus- 
tinian canons and the Cistercians, though, in the case 
of the Cistercians, only four of the eight Yorkshire houses 
seem to have been affected in such a way as to bring 
them into prominence. 


Of these houses, the most notable was the least 
significant, the poorest, and the furthest removed from 
men Salley. This may have been because it was 
already suppressed when the rising began though the 
monks had been replaced in it by the neighbouring 
populations. As soon as ever the rebellion broke out 
the community at Salley appealed for help to the leaders 
in the Craven district, then busied about Skipton Castle, 
and from October 12 Salley became the centre of the 
rising on the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. It is com 
monly believed that one of the monks of Salley composed 
the remarkable Hymn of the Pilgrims ; the brethren 
certainly incited the people round about them to fight 
for the Faith. About October 20 a force of rebels lay 
at Salley in readiness to defend it : this prevented Derby 
from carrying out the King s orders to hang the Salley 
monks. A week later we have record that Darcy heard 
from Salley that Derby was about to attack the house. 


Later on we find that the abbot and monks were still 
in possession, and being fed by their neighbours : 
Nicholas Tempest has sent them a fat ox, a mutton, 
and some geese. Still later, at Christmas 1536, the 
Salley fraternity were actively intriguing with many 
North Country leaders, and notably with Sir Thomas 
Percy, younger son of the fifth Earl of Northumberland, 
for " the extension of the Pilgrimage of Christ s Faith 
and the commonwealth " ; they employed one Shuttle- 
worth as agent, to whom the abbot, on sending him to 
Percy, gave ten shillings for his expenses ; another man, 
of similar character, William Leache, was also employed 
in these negotiations by the abbot, but the transactions 
with him were secret and have never been revealed. 
Altogether, there can be no doubt that much " treason " 
emanated from Salley, and from its abbot. In the letter 
which was sent from Salley to Sir Thomas Percy, the 
writers say that they " mistrust their most sinister back 
friend, Sir Arthur Darcy " : it was Darcy, as owner of 
the Salley lands, who eventually hunted down the abbot 
and arrested him early in 1537. " The poor man pro 
tested," say the authors of The Pilgrimage of Grace, 
" that he was fit neither to ride nor walk, and had done 
no wrong, for the commons had forced him to re-enter 
the abbey against his will. Sir Arthur took depositions 
from some of the abbot s tenants which, he said, showed 
that the religious [of Salley] were the stirrers of all this 
pestilent sedition, and not only that, but would eftsoons 
have quickened and revived the same. " 


As regards Jervaulx, treason is first heard of there in 
1535, when, on the evidence put forward by Sir Francis 
Bigod very slight in quality one of the monks was 
convicted at York Assizes and duly executed. As to 
Adam Sedbar, the abbot who was subsequently executed 
for his share in the Pilgrimage, he certainly appears to 
have been forced into joining it. On Wednesday, 


October n, 1536, some hundreds of the disaffected of 
that district assembled at the abbey, and demanded 
that the abbot should come out to them. The abbot 
made out by a back door, and hid himself in the hills 
behind the abbey, where he stayed for four days. But 
then the rebels came back, and swore that they would 
burn Jervaulx to the ground if the abbot who had 
forbidden his tenants to join them was not forth 
coming. On that he was fetched from " a great crag " 
by the sore-affrighted monks, and went to the mob at 
the risk of his life, whose leaders were, at first, for 
beheading him there and then. Instead, however, they 
forced him to take the oath, after which they carried 
him off with them. He was permitted to return home 
a few days later, but by that time he had evidently 
changed his views, and had decided that the rebels were 
going to be successful, for he was heard to remark that 
the King was offering eighteenpence a day for men, but 
he trusted that they would get as many men as ever 
the King should for eightpence a day. At a later stage 
the Government without doubt regarded Jervaulx as 
the headquarters of the rising in the Dales district, and 
its abbot as a principal ringleader. When the abbot 
was examined in London in the spring of 1537, certain 
charges were brought against him : (i) That about 
Christmas 1536 he sent one of his men to Lincolnshire 
to get news, and that as a result of his report, he, Sedbar, 
began to plot a new rising ; (2) that he gave money to 
one Staveley and others, to induce them to join the 
insurrection ; (3) that he sent messages to Sir Thomas 
Percy about the new insurrection ; (4) that when the 
men about Richmond rose, he sent help to them and 
promised more. To these charges the abbot gave 
explicit answer : (i) He sent a man to Lincolnshire to 
collect rents that was his only business ; (2) he gave 
Staveley a present for finding some sheep which had 
strayed ; (3) he had never sent any message to Sir 
Thomas Percy ; (4) he had no knowledge whatever of 


the rising in Richmondshire. The witnesses against 
Sedbar were men of known bad character, and it is 
usually held by historians that the Abbot of Jervaulx 
was innocent of treason, though he was certainly forced 
into some participation. 


As to William Thirsk, the Abbot of Fountains, whom 
Legh and Layton had turned out as a fool and an idiot, 
and had accused of all manner of evil, and of theft and 
sacrilege, and who had also been vilified by his successor, 
the time-serving Marmaduke Bradley, he seems to have 
been a quiet and peaceable old gentleman, who, driven 
out of his own abbey, had taken refuge at Jervaulx. 
His accusers were the two men whose doubtful evidence 
convicted Sedbar Middleton and Staveley, who alleged 
that in his retirement at Jervaulx, the quondam Abbot 
of Fountains had privately plotted for the rebels. It 
is very clear from his letters to Norfolk that Henry 
regarded Thirsk as a special traitor. When Thirsk was 
tried, Staveley swore that he had sent a treasonable 
message by him to Sir Thomas Percy. Thirsk denied 
this, " and it is probable," say the authors of The 
Pilgrimage of Grace, " that the story was a mere inven 
tion." Practically the charges against Thirsk were 
identical with those against Sedbar. These two abbots 
appear to have been- as innocent as their brother of 
SaUey was, undoubtedly, technically guilty. Against 
Fountains, as a community, there is small evidence of 
treason, though one of the monks was certainly hanged 
for that offence at York on August I, 1537. 


There has been much controversy amongst antiquaries 
and local historians as to whether an abbot of Rievaulx 
took part in the insurrection. Some writers have gone 
so far as to say that the abbot at the time of the Pilgrim 
age was hanged with those of Fountains and Jervaulx. 


This abbot if it were so would be Edward Kirkby, 
who had been deprived and pensioned, and succeeded 
by Roland Blyton, the last abbot. " Kirkby," says 
Mr. Clay in his Suppression Papers, " must have been 
found to have been implicated in the rebellions. He 
was put in the Tower, and there was a charge for his 
maintenance there for six weeks at 6s. Sd. a week." 
Then Mr. Clay makes a definite statement : " He was 
sentenced with the other abbots, but probably got 
reprieved, as there is a mention of him in October 1537 
as moving about his pension." The authors of The 
Pilgrimage of Grace say that Sir Thomas Percy sent 
George Lumley round to several religious houses in the 
North of Yorkshire, asking abbots and priors and two 
monks of each house to come forward in their " best 
array " and with their " best cross," and that the 
Abbot of Rievaulx and the Prior of Guisborough were 
ready to come in person, but that Aske countermanded 
these orders and bade the religious stay at home, and 
they do not mention any Abbot of Rievaulx as having 
been put to trial. Upon this matter the late Canon 
Atkinson has some remarks in the Introduction to his 
edition of the Rievaulx Chartulary. " That there was 
an Abbot of Rievaulx condemned and executed for 
complicity in the Pilgrimage of Grace is probably 
certain," he says ; " but that it was not the abbot 
regnant at the time is more than equally certain." If 
this is correct, the abbot must have been the deprived 
Kirkby, but Mr. Clay has shown us that he was alive 
and busied about his pension late in 1537. Haldesworth, 
Vicar of Halifax, was in London at the time of the 
executions, and in a letter to Sir Henry Savile writes 
that the Abbots of Fountains, Jervaulx, and Rievaulx 
suffered at Tyburn but the words relating to Rievaulx 
were crossed out by the writer, as if he had found him 
self mistaken. There is certainly little in all the records 
to show that Rievaulx as a community had much to 
do with the rising, and we hear next to nothing of the 


complicity of Meaux, or of Roche, or of Byland, or of 
Kirkstall, though Ripley, Abbot of Kirkstall, was cer 
tainly suspected by some of the loyalists as being one 
of those who secretly pulled the strings. 


The great body of the insurgents being assembled at 
Pontefract, Aske and the other leaders set forth for 
Doncaster, and at daybreak on Thursday, October 26, 
1536, were in full array on the north bank of the Don. 
The exact number present is not known : Aske himself 
reckoned it at thirty thousand, but it was probably much 
nearer forty thousand. The Pilgrim banner was there 
with its device of the Five Wounds ; the crimson and 
silver standard of St. Cuthbert of Durham was there too ; 
every man wore the Pilgrim badge, similar to the banner. 
" Priests and friars moved along the lines, commending 
and encouraging the soldiers ; no man, they said, should 
fear to die in defence of the Faith, with the sign of 
Christ s Passion over his heart." And doubtless, as they 
waited there on Scawby Leas, near the Great North 
Road, these insurgents sang the curious hymn which 
had been purposely written for them. 


Christ Crucified 

For thy wounds wide 

Us commons guide 

Which pilgrims be 
Through God s grace 
For to purchase 
Old wealth and peace 

Of the spirituality. 

Great God s fame 
Doth church proclaim 
Now to be lame 
And fast in bonds 


Robbed, spoiled, and shorn 
From cattle and corn 
And dean forth borne 
Of houses and lands. 

Alack, alack 

For the church sake 

Poor commons wake 

And no marvel 
For clear it is 
The decay of this 
How the poor shall miss 

No tongue can tell. 

For there they had 
Both ale and bread 
At time of need 

And succour great 
In all distress 
And heaviness 
In our poorness 

And well intreat. 

In trouble and care 
When that we were 
In manner all bare 

Of our substance 
We found good bate 
At churchmen gate 
Without checkmate 

Or variance. 

God that rights all 
Redress now shall 
And what is thrall 

Again make free 
By this voyage 
And Pilgrimage 
Of young and sage 

In this country. 


In certain versions of this hymn there is another verse 
wherein the singers made allusion to the particular 
objects of their aversion : 

Crim, crame, and riche, 
With thre 111 and the liche 
As sum men teache 

God theym amend 
And that Aske may 
Without delay 
Here make a stay 

And well to end. 

The allusions are, of course, obvious. Crim was Crom 
well ; crame, Cranmer ; riche, Richard Riche, then 
Solicitor-General, whom Sir Thomas More had charged 
with perjury in open court. The three I s were Legh, 
Layton, and the Bishop of Lincoln ; the licbe was the 
Bishop of Lichfield. 


After the holding of a council by the leaders it was 
determined that an embassy should be sent to Norfolk, 
and Sir Thomas Hilton, Sir Ralph Ellerker, Robert 
Bowes, and Robert Challoner were appointed. They 
were to present to the duke the five essential points 
which they considered justificatory of the rising. These 
were (i) The maintenance of the Faith ; (2) restoration 
of the ancient liberties of the Church ; (3) repeal of the 
recent unpopular laws; (4) expulsion of villain blood 
from the Council ; and (5) the deprivation and banish 
ment of Cromwell, Riche, and the heretic bishops. On 
Friday, October 27, the embassy returned and reported 
that Norfolk and the leading nobles were willing to meet 
a deputation of the Pilgrims leaders on the bridge at 
Doncaster, there to discuss the complaints more fully. 
The original four were reappointed ; with them went 
three peers, Darcy, Latimer, and Lumley ; Sir John 
Buhner and Sir Robert Constable. Aske remained with 


his army, and took the opportunity of reviewing it 
perhaps to let the King s troops see what a mighty force 
was with him. The conference on the bridge was a 
long one, and some of the insurgents began to chafe, 
fearing lest the " gentlemen " should betray them. No 
account of what actually took place exists, but in the 
end the embassy returned. A truce had been agreed 
upon. Norfolk was to go to the King at once, accom 
panied by Sir Ralph Ellerker and Robert Bowes, and 
to lay the Pilgrims petition before him. The assembled 
armies were to disperse within forty-eight hours, and 
a truce was to be maintained until the King s answer to 
the petition was given. Late that night Lord Darcy 
and Robert Aske rode to Pontefract and persuaded 
their rearguard to go home. The men who composed 
it obeyed, but reluctantly, doubting if any good would 
come of the truce. Next day Norfolk set out with 
Bowes and Ellerker to see the King, and on Sunday, 
October 29, both armies had quietly dispersed one to 
the North, the other to the South. 


Henry VIII now appears on the scene. Norfolk and 
his companions arrived at Windsor on Thursday, 
November 2. " After dinner the King sent for the 
northern gentlemen. On first seeing them, Henry could 
not repress an outburst of rage, but he allowed himself 
to be soothed by Norfolk and other members of the 
Council, and in the end promised to write an answer 
to the articles with his own hand." The document 
which he drew up was seen by no one until he had 
finished it. Taking it altogether it was considering 
its authorship a mild document, extending a wide 
pardon, but it made no concessions, and Norfolk, when 
he became aware of its contents, knew that the Pilgrims 
would regard it as a declaration of war. Bowes and 
Ellerker set off with the King s reply on Sunday, Novem 
ber 5, but they had not got far before they were stopped 


Cromwell and the Council had been at work; the 
King had heard more news, and listened to fresh advice, 
and from that moment Henry began a very dishonourable 
course of treachery. The two ambassadors being re 
called, he decided to keep them for a time, and they 
were delayed until the middle of November, during 
which time certain events happened in Yorkshire which 
seemed colourably like a breaking of the truce on the 
part of the rebels. On November 17 Bowes and Ellerker 
were at length back in the county, at Templehurst, 
Lord Darcy s house, where they delivered the King s 
verbal reply : the written reply had been withdrawn. 
Henry s message was this he found the complaints 
" dark and obscure " ; let the disaffected appoint three 
hundred representatives to meet the Duke of Norfolk at 
Doncaster, there to discuss matters. After much debate, 
the leaders at Templehurst decided to call a great 
council, and the place of meeting was fixed at York. 


In York, on November 21, in a building which cannot 
now be identified, the leaders met. There were all the 
prominent men present save Darcy, who was excused 
attendance because of his difficulties in travelling. 
There were also some spies present one of them, sad 
to relate, was Robert Aske s own brother, Christopher, 
who " demeaned himself so covertly " that he became 
possessed of all the Pilgrims secrets. Bowes gave an 
account of what had taken place at Windsor, and said 
that he and Ellerker had come back convinced of 
Henry s good faith. This done, Sir Robert Constable 
took occasion to warn his fellows against the treachery 
of Cromwell. But Aske, " adhering steadily to his 
policy of trying every means to obtain peaceful redress," 
pointed out that they were not going to treat with 
Cromwell, but with Norfolk, who was " faithful and 
honourable." Eventually it was decided to hold another 
general council at Pontefract two days before the meeting 


with Norfolk at Doncaster. At this the complaints 
were to be set forth in a formal set of articles, and at 
the same time the Archbishop of York and others 
equally learned were to be required to draw up spiritual 
articles. Provision was then made for the appointing 
at Pontefract of the three hundred men who were to meet 
the King s representative. 


The council at Pontefract sat from December 2 to 
December 4. It is not certain where its proceedings 
took place, but the authors of The Pilgrimage of Grace 
think they were held at the Cluniac priory of St. John. 
There was a very full attendance of peers, knights, 
gentlemen, and commons, and this council is of great 
importance in the history of the rebellion because it 
was at it that the insurgents complaints were definitely 
put in the form of specified articles. The list is lengthy : 
it is only possible to make extracts from it in the present 
instance. It will be observed that the grievances are 
of four sorts religious, legal, social, and constitutional. 
The petition, as formally approved at Pontefract, was : 

1. That the heresies of Luther, Wyclif, Huss, and of many other 

persons named, and those contained in certain specified 
books, should be annulled and destroyed within the realm. 

2. That the supremacy of the Church " touching cur a anima- 

rum," should be reserved to the See of Rome, and bishops 
consecrated thence, but that no firstfruits or pensions 
should be paid to Rome out of the realm, or else a 
" reasonable " pension. 

3. That the Lady Mary should be declared legitimate " in 

danger that the title might recur to the Crown of Scot 

4. That the suppressed religious, houses should be restored and 

have their lands and goods again. 

5. That the tenths and firstfruits should be clearly discharged. 

6. That the friars should be restored to their houses. 

7. That the heretics, spiritual and temporal, should be punished. 


8. That the Lord Cromwell, the Lord Chancellor [Audley], and 

Sir Richard Riche should have condign punishment " as 
subverters of the good laws of this realm." 

9. That the lands in the northern counties should be held by 


10. That the statute of hand-guns and crossbows should be 

repealed and the penalties thereof except in the royal 

11. That Doctor Legh and Doctor Layton should have condign 

punishment for their extortions and abominations. 

12. That the old methods should be restored in the elections of 

knights and burgesses. 

13. That the statutes for enclosures and intakes should be put 

in execution, and that all enclosures made since the fourth 
year of Henry VII be pulled down. 

14. That the people should be discharged of the quinzieme 

(fifteenth) and other taxes. 

15. That a Parliament should shortly be summoned at York or 

at Nottingham. 

1 6. That the statute of the declaration of the Crown by will 

should be repealed. 

17. That all penalties, etc., incurred during the time of unrest 

should be pardoned. 

18. That the rights and privileges of the Church should be 

confirmed : no priest to suffer by the sword unless first 
degraded ; benefit of clergy to remain ; sanctuary to save 
in extreme need. 

19. That the liberties of the Church should have their old customs 

at Durham, Beverley, Ripon, York. 

20. That the Statute of Uses should be repealed. 

21. That the statutes of treasons made since 21 Henry VIII 

should be repealed. 

22. That the common laws should have place " as was used in 

the beginning of your Grace s reign." 

23. That no man, subpoenaed North of Trent, should appear but 

at York, or elsewhere by attorney, except upon pain of 
allegiance or King s business. 

24. That a remedy should be provided against escheators for 

finding of false offices and extortionate fees-taking. 



While the laymen were drawing up these articles, 
Lee, Archbishop of York, was presiding over a meeting 
of clerics which had been summoned by his Chancellor, 
Dr. Cliff. Those present, in addition to the Archbishop, 
were John Ripley, Abbot of Kirkstall; Dr. Sherwood, 
Chancellor of Beverley ; Dr. Langredge, Archdeacon of 
Cleveland ; Dr. Downes, Chancellor of York ; Dr. 
Marshall, Archdeacon of Nottingham ; James Thwaites, 
Prior of Pontefract ; two well-known friars, Dr. Picker 
ing and Dr. Rokeby ; and some beneficed clergymen of 
high standing. They proceeded to discuss certain theo 
logical questions bearing on the movement, the principal 
one being that relating to the Royal Supremacy. On 
this they eventually agreed that the King might retain 
the title of Caput Ecclesice, but might not exercise 
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. They considered and ap 
proved certain propositions which had been submitted 
to them by Aske, the most important being a declaration 
of opinion that " by the laws of the Church, of General 
Councils, of approved doctors, and by consent of Christian 
peoples, the Pope of Rome hath been taken for Head 
of the Church and Vicar of Christ, and so ought to be 
taken." After approving the laymen s articles, those 
and their own were delivered to Aske, who, before the 
divines dispersed but presumably not in Lee s presence 
put to them a pertinent question : Was it at any 
time lawful for subjects to resist their sovereign ? " To 
this they returned no answer " nor can we wonder, 
remembering their situation in the midst of an insurgent 


On Wednesday, December 6, Aske, at the head of 
ten knights, ten esquires, and twenty of the commons, 
met Norfolk and his council at the house of the White 
Friars at Doncaster. They began the proceedings by 


falling on their knees and humbly asking for the King s 
free pardon and favour after which they presented 
their articles. These were argued between Aske and 
Norfolk all day. In the evening Norfolk agreed to a 
free pardon, a free Parliament, and the provisional 
restoration of the religious houses. He at once wrote to 
Henry stating that he saw no prospect of peace unless 
these terms were confirmed ; meanwhile Aske and his 
company rode back to Pontefract, and next morning 
proclaimed the terms to three thousand Pilgrims at the 
old market cross. During that day, however, there 
was a hitch in the proceedings, which necessitated a 
hurried jovirney to Doncaster, but next day all had been 
put right, and on Friday, December 8, a herald brought 
the formal pardon to Pontefract and it was read to the 
insurgents on St. Thomas s Hill, close by the Cluniac 
priory. The commons thereupon went home, and Aske 
and his immediate following rode to Doncaster to con 
clude certain matters with Norfolk. These done, Aske 
dramatically tore off his badge of the Five Wounds, 
his companions followed suit, exclaiming that henceforth 
they would wear no sign but that of the King, Norfolk 
gave the formal order for the restoration of the monas 
teries, and the council was over. And so was the success 
which Aske and his comrades seemed to have gained. 
For all this was part of Henry s diplomacy, or, to give 
it a plainer word, treachery he had no intention of 
keeping faith with the rebels, and in all these proceedings 
was merely tricking them. " Henry," wrote the authors 
of Ihe Pilgrimage of Grace, " had no intention of keeping 
the unauthorized promise which Norfolk as his repre 
sentative had made, but he did not repudiate it. He 
permitted and encouraged those whom it most concerned 
to believe that he regarded the promise as binding, 
until he found a favourable opportunity for denying it 
altogether, and punishing those who had trusted him." 



One man there was who, because of his own singular 
nobility and simplicity of character, trusted the King 
implicitly Robert Aske. Now we come to Henry s 
own personal relations with Aske. They are of a piece 
with all that history has taught us of the falsity and 
cruelty of the Tudors, from Henry VII to Elizabeth. 
In the middle of December Henry sent a safe-conduct 
to Aske, accompanied by a gracious message. As, he 
said, he had granted a free pardon to Aske, he had now 
conceived a great wish to have speech with him ; where 
fore he desired him to come to Court, where, he hoped, 
Aske, by frank dealing with him, would gain his favour. 
Aske repaired to London in the last week of the year. 
That he was received in a fulsomely flattering manner 
by Henry is certain. In the Spanish Chronicle, edited 
by the late Martin Hume (chapter xvii), there is an 
account of his reception, which, if not strictly accurate 
as to detail, is reliable in its main features. Henry, as 
soon as he saw Aske, rose up, threw his arms about 
him, welcomed him warmly, and in the presence of the 
Council told him that he had only to ask what he desired 
and it should be granted. Aske spoke out with a 
Yorkshireman s candour and boldness. " Sir, your 
Majesty allows yourself to be governed by a tyrant 
named Cromwell. Every one knows that if it had not 
been for him the 7000 poor priests I have in my company 
would not be ruined wanderers. They must have enough 
to live upon, for they have no handicraft." Henry, ac 
cording to this account, made Aske very rich presents 
a gold chain and a thousand pounds but according to 
Letters and Papers no more than a crimson satin jacket ; 
promised that the priests should be provided for, and 
told Aske that he was wiser than any one thought, and 
he would make him, there and then, one of his Council. 
Certainly he persuaded Aske to write that narrative of 
events which remains the truest and best history of the 


insurrection. Certainly, too, the simple-minded York- 
shireman was captivated by Henry s well-assumed 
graciousness ; certainly, he believed in Henry s promises. 
But there was one man then at Court who could not 
win Aske over with Thomas Cromwell the ex-leader 
would have nothing to do. Still, Cromwell s master had 
won Aske s confidence, after the well-established Tudor 
fashion, and he went home little knowing that already 
the false tyrant he had left behind was quietly planning 
his destruction. 


The means soon lay ready to Henry s hand. Aske 
and the other more prominent leaders of the bloodless 
Pilgrimage of Grace, trusting in the royal promises, had 
forgotten one highly important fact they themselves 
were only a few amongst thousands upon thousands of 
discontented men. After the formal pardoning at Ponte- 
fract, the gentlemen and the commons had gone home 
to their estates and their farms, hoping, as men will, 
to see things mended quickly. But there was no sign 
of amendment, and men will not live on promises. 
There were restless spirits in the county ; and while 
Robert Aske was doubtless planning how things might 
be done with the royal sanction, other things were being 
done which gave Henry excellent cause and excuse for 
withdrawing the royal favour and promises. The Cis 
tercians of Salley were again rebellious ; there was 
rioting at Beverley ; the royal deer were poached in 
Craven ; there was a disturbance in Cumberland over 
the tithes ; finally the renewed risings under John 
Hallam and Sir Francis Bigod enabled the King to sweep 
away all the Norfolk negotiations, and to come down 
with all his force on every one who had resisted his 
rule during the past year. The Bigod rising was, in 
reality, in opposition to the former leaders, Darcy, Aske, 
and Constable, but the Government made no nice distinc 
tions, and after Norfolk had crushed it and had hanged 


some eighty participants, all the principal folk who had 
been connected with the Pilgrimage of Grace were 
arrested. The spring of 1537 saw most of them haled 
off to the Tower, or to the local gaols before summer 
began they were all on trial ; before it ended they were 
dead men. Just as Elizabeth wreaked her vengeance 
in 1570 on the men who had taken part in the Rising 
of the North, so Henry made example of men and 
women who had dared to follow the banner of the Five 
Wounds in 1536. 


It is needless to go into the details of trials whereat, 
in every case, the proceedings were mere travesties of 
justice. Aske and his fellow-leaders were not guilty in 
the matter of the Bigod rising, and had already been 
pardoned for their share in the Pilgrimage of Grace. 
But here was the opportunity, not only of getting rid 
of them, but of exercising that love of revenge which 
was so marked a quality of the Tudor sovereigns. " All 
intelligent and honourable men," observe the authors 
of The Pilgrimage of Grace, " knew that the King was 
not doing justice. There is abundant proof . . . that 
no class of society believed it to be just or right or 
necessary for the common safety to put men to death 
for a word speaking, particularly when the evidence 
that the word had been spoken was only hearsay or 
was supplied by those who had an interest in the death 
of the accused. The treason laws, and trials such as 
those of More, Fisher, and the Carthusian monks in the 
previous year, excited so much horror as to cause the 
rebellion. The rising was at first successful ; it was 
overcome, not by force, nor by the rally of any consider 
able party round the throne, but by treachery. The 
King in the moment of victory was able to do as he 
pleased, for the defeated opposition was bewildered, 
terrified, and helpless." 



Short shrift was given. Darcy was brought to trial 
in Westminster Hall on Tuesday, May 15, 1537 : Crom 
well, who had drawn up the indictment, being one of 
the judges. He was, of course, found guilty, and it 
was intended to execute him on the following Saturday, 
but the King postponed the execution, being uncertain 
whether the best effect would be produced by having 
his victim put to death in London or in Yorkshire. 
Meanwhile he was sent to the Tower, and thence, on 
June 30, he was led out to Tower Hill and beheaded. 
He forgave the King a debt of 4400 which Henry owed 
him : Henry repaid his courtesy by having his head 
exposed on London Bridge. Lord Hussey, a Lincoln 
shire magnate, who was tried with Darcy, was sent 
down to Lincoln to suffer : his execution was followed 
by a riot in the city. On the day after the trial of the 
two peers, Westminster Hall was the scene of the trial 
of Sir Francis Bigod, Sir John Buhner, Lady Bulmer, 
Sir Robert Constable, and Robert Aske, with some 
prisoners of less importance. They were all found guilty. 
On Thursday, May 17, James Cockerell, quondam Prior 
of Guisborough ; William Wood, Prior of Bridlington ; 
Adam Sedbar, Abbot of Jervaulx; William Thirsk, 
quondam Abbot of Fountains ; and some others, clergy 
men and laymen, were tried and sentenced. The execu 
tions began within a few days. On Friday, May 25, 
Sir John Bulmer, Sir Stephen Hamerton, Nicholas Tem 
pest, the Prior of Guisborough, and the Abbot of Foun 
tains were put to" death at Tyburn. Bulmer and 
Hamerton " enjoyed " the privilege of knighthood, and 
were only hanged and beheaded ; the others were 
hanged, drawn, and quartered. On the same day 
Lady Bulmer was drawn on a hurdle to Smithfield, and 
there burnt alive. " She was," says Wriothesley in his 
chronicle, " a very fair creature, and a beautiful." On 
Saturday, June 2, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Francis Bigod, 


the Prior of Bridlington, and the Abbot of Jervaulx 
suffered at Tyburn. As for the Abbot of Salley, he was 
hanged, drawn, and quartered at Carlisle. Some seventy 
men who had taken part in the Lincolnshire rising were 
done to death at various places in the county. And 
now there were Aske and Constable to be finished. They 
were sent down to Yorkshire in charge, and on Friday, 
July 6, being market-day, Constable was hanged outside 
the Beverley Gate at Hull, and his body afterwards 
" so trimmed in chains," wrote Norfolk, " that I think 
his bones will hang there this hundred year." It was 
market-day, too, in York, Thursday, July 12, when 
Robert Aske was hanged, in Norfolk s presence, on a 
scaffold that had been prepared on the top of Clifford s 
Tower. These were the more notable executions : in 
all, 216 persons were sacrificed to Henry s desire for 
revenge. And folk were very conversant with Holy 
Writ in those days, and it may be that some of these 
people had in their minds as they went to their deaths 
that passage which admonishes men to put not their 
trust in princes. 



THE further suppression of the religious houses at first 
went hand in hand with the hunting down and punish 
ment of the Northern rebels. Norfolk had been sent to 
Yorkshire in February 1537 to suppress the new risings, 
and henceforth he plays a terrible part in the swiftly 
moving drama which was ending in tragedy and blood 
and destruction. At this period he is a not less dreadful 
and sinister figure than Cromwell : in the opinion of 
some writers he is more to be feared, more worthy of 
condemnation. " If it were necessary," observe the 
authors of The Pilgrimage of Grace, " to make a choice 
between [Cromwell s] moral character and that of his 
high-born opponent, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, 
it could scarcely be denied that Norfolk was the greater 
scoundrel of the two. He was simply a courtier and 
politician, with not a tenth of Cromwell s ability. By 
inclination he was conservative and favoured the Old 
Learning, but if he could advance himself by denying 
his politics or his faith he was quite ready to abandon 
either. Cromwell at least had a political end in view ; 
Norfolk merely wished to aggrandize himself and had 
no other object." Between Cromwell and Norfolk there 
was no love lost ; each was scheming for the other s 
fall, yet, write the same authors, " among all the records 
of misery, crime, and brutality in the letters and papers 
of the time there is perhaps nothing more horrible than 
Norfolk s letters to Cromwell ; the sickly expressions of 



goodwill, the filthy jokes, the grimaces of thankfulness, 
make them vile reading." 


Some of these letters are printed in Mr. Clay s Sup 
pression Papers and show that Norfolk let little time 
slip when he went to Yorkshire early in 1537. On 
February 13 he writes to "the right honourable and 
my singular good lord, my lord Privy Seal," saying that 
he encloses a bill of the names of such as are now cast 
for execution, with particulars of where it shall be done. 
Item, there are two canons of Warter Priory to be hanged 
in chains at York; of whom one was sometime Superior 
of that house ; with them will suffer two yeomen, one 
named Fenton, the other Caunte. Item, the Superior 
of Watton is to be hanged in chains there presumably 
at his own door, a favourite proceeding. Also he has 
safely in prison a friar about whose seditious preaching 
the learned men of these parts have not yet made up 
their minds ; but he sends Cromwell the said friar s 
confession. His zeal is spurred by letters from the 
King. Henry writes to him on February 22 telling him 
to send up " in perfitt suertie " the traitors Bigod, and 
the friar of Guisborough, and Leache if they can catch 
him, and Dr. Pickering, the Canon of Bridlington, and 
to " tie up " the monks of Salley without mercy. He 
writes again on March 17 Norfolk is to proceed against 
the abbots of Fountains (the quondam), Jervaulx, and 
Salley, and to execute certain others at his discretion ; . 
he is to be strict about the friars, who, says the King, 
are " disciples of the bp. of Rome and sowers of 
sedition." Soon after this Norfolk was made Lord 
President of the newly constituted Council of the North, 
and from April 1537 to October 1538 he had matters 
very much his own way in the northern counties, and 
exercised a tyranny only second to his master s. 



It soon became known that there was to be further 
destruction amongst the religious houses, and in the 
spring of 1537 the greed and rapacity of the Yorkshire 
gentry anxious to profit by the dissolution of monasteries 
and convents breaks out again in- letters to Cromwell. 
Sir William Musgrave, of the ancient Westmorland 
family, is anxious to get his share. 

March 17, 1537 

Right honourable and my espeschall good Lord. This shalbe 
to advertis youre lordschipe that wher[as] ther is a vere small 
priore of nonys callyd Esholt within a lordshipe of my lait 
graunfather Sir Christopher Ward who lyeth ther, callyd the 
manner of Esholt, which standeth very commodyusle for me, 
the holle valew thereof by yere xix //. or there about . . . pleas 
yow to be so much my good lord as to helpe me to the sayme 
of the King s Highnes for me and my heres. ... I pray God 
to preserve youre good lordshipe in myche honor and cumfurts 
such as youre nobill harte requyrith. 


Cromwell s " nobill harte " was constantly rejoiced by 
these requests : they must have reached him daily. 
Every man who had the least claim or excuse wanted 
something : as in the case of the next letter, the suitor 
often gave an alternative ; if he might not have this, 
pray let him have that : 

I humblie beseche your good lordshipe to have me in remem 
brance to the Kynge hys highnes of the monastery of Bartall 
[Baredale] in the countie of Yorke . . . and if be not your 
lordshipes pleasure that I shall have this I beseeche your lord 
shipe to remember me of the offyces of the keping of Ffossa, being 
in the sayd countie. THOMAS DALARYVERE 


Now and then, however, one comes- across a country 
gentleman who writes to Cromwell asking, not for any- 


thing for himself, but that some particular religious 
house may be allowed to stand. Here is one such 
instance in a letter from Sir Brian Hastings, knight, of 
Fenwick : 

April 13, 1537 

Plesythe youre honorable lordshippe at this my pore instance 
to be so good lorde unto one pore house of Nunes called Hampole, 
which are near neighburs unto me and of good name, fame, and 
rule, and so reputed and taken amongst all the Cuntrey aboute 
me, to the whiche house the kynge is so good and gracious lorde 
unto the sayd house by the order and direccion of youre lord 
shippe and others of the kynges most honorable councell shall 
not be suppressed bot to remayne and stand and have more 
religious women assigned unto them ... I shall estsones desyre 
youre honorable lordshipe to be so good lord unto the said pore 
house that they may have theyre sayd confirmaccion . . . and 
they wilbe your daily bedwomen. . . . 

But here he puts in a word for himself : 

Furthur it will please your good lordshipe to call to your 
remembrance that at my last being with youe at London the 
Kynge was a good and gracious lorde unto me to graunte me the 
parsonage of Campsall for terme of one hundreth yeares and I 
have the Kynges bylle assigned for the same . . . now master 
Chaunceler of the Augmentacyons wyll not suffer it to pass the 
seale for what cause I knowe not . . . my especiall truste is in 
your lordeshippe be good to me herein . . . and thus oure 
Lorde God preserve you longe with honoure. 



The renewed disaffection in the North during the 
early months of 1537, and the rebellious spirit manifested 
at Salley, Hexham, Whalley, and Newminster, afforded 
Henry and his Ministers an excellent pretext for further 
repression, and during the year several of the larger 
religious houses were dissolved by the attainder of their 
abbots. The statute which settled the royal succession 
(25 Henry VIII, cap. 22) was so twisted as to make forfeit- 


able for treason the properties of a community presided 
over by a superior found guilty of treason " a great 
stretch, of law," observes such, a decidedly partisan writer 
as Burnet, " since the offence of an ecclesiastical incum 
bent is a personal thing and cannot prejudice the church." 
Under this system of suppression by attainder Jervaulx 
came to its end, and the correspondence of the period 
between Henry, Cromwell, and Norfolk is full of allusions 
to its dissolution. Here again the layman is found 
urging his claims to the monastic spoils. Sir William 
Parr, son of Sir Thomas Parr, K.G., of Kendal, was head 
of the family which held the patronage of Jervaulx ; 
he was one of the King s agents in suppressing the 
Lincolnshire rising ; he was subsequently created Marquis 
of Northampton, and his sister Katharine was Henry s 
last wife. He writes to Cromwell in pursuance of his 
own interests, evidently as soon as he has heard of the 
suppression of Jervaulx by attainder. 

May 28, 1537 

Right honorable and my verey singler good lorde my dutye 
remembred unto youre lordeshipe in my hartiest maner I com 
mend me unto [you]. And where as my late being withe your 
lordeshipe at London I shewed you that I had moved the Kings 
Highnes to be good and gracious lorde unto me for the prefer 
ment of Gervaxe Abbeye in Yorkeshire whereof I am ffownnder 
in case it weyre suppressed . . . theis shalbe to beseke youre 
good lordeshipe to have my said sute in remembrance ffor I am 
informed there is instant labor made by others in their behalf . . . . 
I troste youre lordshipe shalbe assured of me at all tymes to be 
at youre Commaundement to the uttermost of my powier. As 
kneweth the Lorde, who preserve you re lordshipe in moche 


The references to Jervaulx in the correspondence are 
usually of a very material nature. Norfolk remarks to 
the King, May 10, that " Jerues is right well furnisshed 
with lede in the coveryng of their houses " ; Henry 
writes to Norfolk, three days later, as to the great care 


to be shown in taking inventories of the goods at Jer- 
vaulx and Bridlington, especially that " mete for our 
use," by which, of course, he meant plate and jewels. 
Cromwell, writing to Norfolk, May 22, about Jervaulx, 
gives him minute instructions about the property, espe 
cially the corn and cattle " his highnes doubteth not 
but ye wyll order the same as shalbe most for his hignes 
profitt." Little time was lost in the work at Jervaulx. 
On May 23 William Blytheman informs Cromwell that 
" too morow his grace (Norfolk) goothe towardes 
Jerves " ; eight days later Norfolk writes to the Vicar- 
General, " My veray good Lorde with most herty recom- 
mendacons . . . the house of Jerueaulx is suppressed." 
On June 2 he writes again to Cromwell, saying that 
Jervaulx was " moche in debte," but the sale of the 
movable goods will fully discharge it, " with a better 


About this time, June 1537, Layton comes on] the 
scene again. He has heard that the whole of the 
religious houses will be dissolved : he naturally wishes 
further employment in that profitable business. So he 
writes to Cromwell. 

June 4, 1537 

Pleasit yowe to understande, that whereas ye intende shortly 
to visite, and be lyke shall have many sutters unto yowe for 
the same to be yor commissares, if hit myght stonde with your 
pleasure that doctor Lee and I myght have committyde unto us 
the North Centre, and to begyn in Lincolne dioces, northwardes 
here from London, Chester dioces, Yorke, and so furthe to the 
borders of Scotlande, to ryde downe one syde and to cum up 
the other, ye shalbe well and faste assuryde that ye shall nother 
fynde monke, chanone, frear, prior, abbott, or any other of what 
degre so euer he be, that shall do the Kynges hyghnes so good 
servys in this matter for thos parities, nether be so trusty, trewe, 
and faithfull to joine in the same doyng all thynges so diligently 
for your purpos and your discharge. And forasmuche as the 
Kynges hyghnes hath put his onely truste in yowe for the 


reformacion of his clergie, gyvnyng yowe thereunto onely 
auctoritie and power, ye must have suche as ye may trust evyn 
as well as your owne self, wiche must be unto yowe as alter ego. 
Doctor Lee and I have onely bene prefeeryde to the Kynges 
servys by yowe, et U solum ab eo tempers in huncusque diem 
habuimus Mcecenatem et unicum patronum, nsc alium unquam 
habituri. Oure desier is, there for, now to declare unto yowe 
owre trew harttey and faithfull mynde oure faste and unfaynede 
servys that we bere towardes yowe, and owe unto yowe, as ye 
haue of ryght bownde us. Ther ys nother monasterie, selle, 
priorie, nor any other religiouse howse in the north ; but other 
doctor Lee or I have familier acqwayntance within x or xij 
mylles of hit, so that no knaverie can be hyde from us in that 
centre, nor ther we cannot be over fayssede nor suffer any maner 
injurie. We knowe and haue experiens bothe of the fassion off 
the contre and the rudenes of the pepull, owre frendes and 
kynsfookes be despersyde in those parties, in every place redy 
to assyste us if any stobborne or sturdy carle might perchaunce 
be found a rebellous. If ye hade leisure to overlooke the booke 
of articles that I made for your visitacion this tyme xij monethes, 
and to marke evere sondire interrogatorie therein wryttyn, 
dowtles this is matter sufficient to detecte and opyn all coloryde 
sanctitie, all supersticiouse rewlles of pretensyde religion and 
other abusys detestable of all sorttes hetherto clokyde and 
coloryde by the reformitors so named of evere religion wiche 
ever by frendeshipe, tyll this day hath founde craffty meanys 
to be ther own visitors, therby no reformacion intendyng nother 
goode religion (if any be) to incresse, but onely to kepe secrete 
all matters of mischeffe, with muche priuey murmuryng among 
them selffes, sellyng ther jewelles and plate to take half the 
valew for redy money, with gret rewyne and dekay of ther 
howsis which muste nedes yet continewe and indure dayly more 
and more with incresse, unleste ye nowe sett to yowr helpyng 
hande, and with expedicion spedy and efftsones tendre the 
premisses. Most humble desieryng yowe to take no displeasure 
with this my rude and playne letter, thus boldely utteryng unto 
yowe my intire mynde and consayte, ref erryng all to your wisdom 
and goodnes, by the hasty hande of your moste assuryde poir 





In the early months of 1538 Cromwell began to be 
still further approached by suitors anxious to secure the 
monastic lands in Yorkshire. One of his most pressing 
applicants was Cranmer, who was now Archbishop of 
Canterbury : in February of that year Cranmer writes 
to his " veray singuler good Lorde " at some length on 
behalf of a favourite of his, one John Wakefield, " gentil- 
man, Controller of my houshold, a man of goode judg- 
mente and affection towards God s worde." Cranmer 
has known Wakefield for the space of twelve years ; 
Wakefield, he says, was one of those who had publicly 
testified " againste the abusions of the clergie," and had 
resisted the efforts of Lord Darcy to draw him into the 
Pilgrimage of Grace. He has had little for his loyalty. 
" And now," continues the Archbishop, " for asmoche 
as I am enformed that the Priorie of Pomfrete and the 
demayne lands of that howse lyeth very comodiously 
for hyme specyally in the towne wheare he dwelleth, 
theis shalbe to beseche your lordshipe to be so good 
lorde unto hym as to be a meane unto the kinges majestie 
that he may haue the preferment of the saide priorie 
with the demaynes in f erme." Elizabeth Ughtred, pray 
ing " Almighty Jhesu ever preserve your good lordshipe," 
begs Cromwell to get her " oone of these abbays, yf 
thay fortune to goe downe." She will, she says, be " more 
bounde unto " Cromwell than " anny livinge woman 
mought be and moor," if he will only help her to " a 
thousande marke a yer." The Earl of Westmorland, also 
praying " Jeshu preserve youre lordshipe," again begs 
fulsomely for grants of Rosedale (which he got) and 
Keldholme, " to my grete comfortte." Sir John Nevile 
begs hard that he may have something " the howse 
off Selbey, or Sanntt Oswaldes [Nostell Priory], or Monk- 
burton with the demaynes " thereof ; he begs the 
" holle trinitie " to have Cromwell " in his blyssyd 
kepyng long to endure " : he presses his suit to Dr. 


Legh. also, assuring him how he will serve him if only 
Legh will induce Cromwell to let him have some of the 
spoils. And so it is with many others pious wishes, 
sickening to read because of their evident hypocrisy, 
are mingled with hints of bribes and service, if only 
those who have the monastic properties at disposal will 
throw some share to the hungry suitors. 


The Cistercian properties in Yorkshire were naturally 
regarded as the chief prizes in the wholesale loot. There 
were certain men of the time who saw vast commercial 
opportunities in the Suppression, and who were eager 
to buy up the lands at the Crown s prices and afterwards 
to sell them at considerable profit. One of these specu 
lators was Sir Arthur Darcy ; another was William 
Ramsden, of Longley, near Huddersfield ; a third was 
Sir Richard Gresham, a famous merchant, who was 
Lord Mayor of London in 1537, and is known to have 
been a great lender of money in his time, having financial 
transactions of the usury sort with the King, and with 
Wolsey, and with Cromwell, by all of which he greatly 
profited. Gresham appears to have had his eye on 
Fountains from the first hints of its suppression, and 
on October 22, 1538, he writes to Cromwell about the 
sale. It will be noticed that the letter contains some 
particulars of its writer s financial dealings with the 

Myn homble dewty to yor goode lordeshippe, maye yt please 
you to be aduertyssed that whereas I have movyd the Kynges 
magiste to purches of his grace certen laundes be longyn to the 
howsse of Fowntens to the vallewe of thre hundred and fyvty 
poundes by yere after the rate of xx li yeres purches the som of 
the mony amowntyng unto 7000 li whereof to be dessallyd 1000 li 
whiche I delyuered by the comawndement of the lorde Cardenale 
to the Ducke of Bokyngham on his goynge to Guynes and the 
seyd Cardenale receyvyd of the sayde Ducke ij obligacons where 
I stonde boundyn he and S r Thomas Woodehowsse with others 


to the Kynges usse for payment of the sayd 1000 li and the 
same obligacons wher delyuered by the seyd Cardinale to Master 
Mekelowe beynge thresaurer of the Kynges chamber, onely to 
thintent that I shoulld be recompenced to the some of 1000 li 
in customes whiche yet I am not, as yor lordsheppes do knowe, 
and for the reste of the mony for the sayde laundes whiche ys 
6000 li I wylle paye in hande 3000 li and the other 3000 li . . . 
to paye yerlly 500 li tyll yt be payed, beschynge yor goode 
lordeshipe to be soo goode lorde unto me that I may knowe the 
Kynges gracious pleassor that yf I shold have the sayde laundes 
that I maye prepare the mony to be in a rydenes. And thus 
ower lorde preserue yor goode lordeshyppe with helthe. 

Yor owne at yor lordeshepis commawndement, 


It was probably about the time of the writing of this 
letter that the King and his Ministers, who had been 
tending towards a definite course ever since the end of 
the Northern risings, determined to suppress the whole 
of the religious houses, monasteries, convents of nuns, 
and priories. In 1538 they adopted a means and 
system of their own most likely devised by Cromwell. 
There was no Act of Parliament to compel a legal sup 
pression the Act under which the houses had been 
dissolved in 1536 only provided legislation in respect of 
those worth less than 200 a year. Since then various 
houses had been suppressed illegally by the attainder 
of their abbots or priors. Now followed suppression by 
consent. Commissioners were appointed by Cromwell 
to visit the various houses and to endeavour to secure 
peaceable surrender if that can be called peaceable 
which was practically at the sword s point. The inmates 
of houses surrendered in this fashion were, of course, to 
be bribed by pensions, varying in amount according to 
the degree of the pensioned. Every possible inducement 
was to be put in the way of superiors and brethren to 
yield possession of the monastic properties to the Crown. 
If persuasion failed and resistance was made, then "the 
commissioners were to use force. 



The commissioners for Yorkshire were Sir George 
Lawson, who had been particularly active in the North 
ever since the movement for dissolution began, Richard 
Bellasis, William Blytheman, and James Rokeby. On 
December 15, 1538, they wrote to Cromwell a. letter, 
signed by all four, stating that they had quietly taken 
the surrenders and had dissolved the monasteries of 
Worksop, Monk Bretton, St. Andrew s at York, Byland, 
Rievaulx, Kirkham, and EUerton, and the houses of 
friars at Tickhill, Doncaster, Pontefract, and York, and 
that in all these cases " we perceyved no murmure or 
gruge in anye behalfe, bot were thanckefully receyvede." 
Three days later Lawson and Blytheman advise Crom 
well that the Priors of Pontefract (Cluniac), Newburgh 
(Augustinian), and Malt on (Gilbertine) are minded to 
surrender their houses " as the Holye Gooste knowethe 
who preserve your lordeshippe," and from that time 
forward the voluntary surrenders went on steadily. 
As regards the Cistercian houses, Byland was given up 
and dissolved on November 30, 1538 ; Rievaulx on 
December 3, 1538 ; Roche had already been sur 
rendered, its career having come to an end in the 
preceding summer, June 23. Fountains, Meaux, and 
Kirkstall survived a little longer. 


Of the exact proceedings of the commissioners under 
the system of 1538 inducing " voluntary " surrender 
it is not easy to find accurate details. But the late 
Mr. Richard Holmes gives a very full account of what 
occurred at Pontefract when the surrender of the 
Dominican Friary was effected to which allusion has 
just been made in the commissioners letter of December 
15. In his book, The Black Friars of Pontefract, Mr. 
Holmes prints the deed of surrender, and Blytheman s 
account of the properties of the house each is no doubt 


typical of similar deeds and inventories, at any rate in 
the case of the poorer houses. The deed (as rendered 
in English by Mr. Holmes) runs as follows : 

To all the faithful in Christ, to whom this present writing shall 
come. Robert Day, Prior of the Friars Preachers within the 
town of Pontefract in the county of York and the Convent of 
that place, everlasting health in the Lord. Know that the 
aforesaid Prior and the Convent with unanimous assent and 
consent and with deliberate intentions, of our sure knowledge 
and mere motions for certain just causes and reasons specially 
influencing our minds and consciences voluntarily and of our 
own accord, have given, granted, and by these presents give 
and grant, surrender, deliver, and confirm, to the Prince, illus 
trious in Christ and our Lord, Henry the Eighth, by the Grace 
of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, 
Lord of Ireland, and on earth supreme head under Christ of the 
English Church, all our said Priory and house, and all the site, 
ground, circuit, and precinct of the same our house to hold to 
the aforesaid and to our lord the King, his heirs, and assigns for 
ever. And we the aforesaid Prior and Convent and our successors 
will by these presents for ever warrant and defend against all 
men to the aforesaid our Lord the King, his heirs, and assigns 
our said Conventual House, the site, the mansion and our church 
aforesaid, and all and every the premises with all rights and 
appurtenances. In testimony and guarantee of which we the 
aforesaid Prior and Convent have caused to be affixed to these 
presents our common seal. Given in our Chapter House the 
26th day of the month of November in the 3Oth year of the 
reign of King Henry the Eighth. 



According to Blytheman s accounts (Ministers Ac 
counts, 29-30 Hen. VIII, 197) the value of the possessions 


found in the church and friary of the Dominicans of 
Pontefract was miserably small. He sold " a suit of 
blue worsted " to the Mayor of Pontefract for i6s. ; 
another, of a mulberry colour, to a certain stranger for 
13-r. 4^. A suit of vestments known as the Taylor suit 
fetched 2os. ; two worn-out vestments produced 5^. ; 
a pair of candlesticks and a censer were sold for is. ^.d. 
Pots and pans produced los. ; furniture, 2s. ; feather 
beds and bolsters in the guest-chamber, %s. Sd. There 
were no " jewels " save a chalice, of which, the report 
says, " not 2d. could be made at this land of sale." 
Altogether, he took in 5 IQS. ^d. Out of that as " gifts 
of the Lord King" he handed the prior 13^. 4^., and 
the seven friars $s. each and so turned them out on 
the world. 


It was felt necessary to legalize these surrenders by 
consent, and during the Parliamentary session of 1539 
an Act was passed (31 Hen. VIII, cap. 13) for the formal 
dissolution of all monasteries, abbeys, nunneries, colleges, 
hospitals, houses of friars, and other religious and eccle 
siastical houses and places within the King s realm of 
England and Wales, and for the giving of all the pro 
perties, lands, possessions, and belongings of the same 
to the King, his heirs, and successors for ever. This 
Act was not only retrospective but prospective, for it 
expressly included within its provisions all religious 
houses " which hereafter shall be dissolved." But there 
was further legislation. " The King and those about 
him," says Gairdner (English Church in the Sixteenth 
Century)^ " had evidently lost all respect for the sanctity 
of old endowments ; yet he felt the need of a pious 
pretext to justify his proceedings, and this appeared in 
another Act of Parliament, passed at the same time, to 
enable him to apply the confiscated property to better 
uses. This Act, which passed through all its stages in 
both houses in a single day, referred in its preamble to 


* the slothful and ungodly life led by those persons 
who were called religious ; and in order that God s 
Word might be better set forth, children better taught, 
students maintained at universities, highways mended, 
and various other good purposes promoted, the King 
was empowered to create new bishoprics by letters 
patent and endow them with monastic lands. Within 
a few years, accordingly, he created bishoprics at West 
minster, Bristol, Chester, Gloucester, Peterborough, and 
Oxford." But the actual amount of money laid out in 
the founding and endowment of these bishoprics was 
very small probably not exceeding 10,000 and the 
whole proceeding was a mere plausible excuse. 


Under the legislation of 1539 the remaining Cistercian 
houses in Yorkshire were dissolved. Marmaduke Bradley, 
who appears to have been hand in glove with the agents 
and commissioners of Cromwell from the time when he 
secured the abbacy by bribing the Vicar-General through 
Legh and Layton, surrendered Fountains on November 
26, and Richard Draper gave up Meaux on December n. 
Kirkstall survived a year longer, but was finally sur 
rendered by John Ripley on November 22, 1540. He 
had twice been abbot. He was first elected in 1508, 
but resigned in the following year in favour of William 
Marshall, who ruled the community until 1527. Ripley 
was elected for the second time in 1528, and would 
appear in the last years of his abbacy to have adopted 
means to keep in with each of the contending factions. 
As for the Cistercian houses of nuns, of which there were 
ten in Yorkshire at Basedale, Ellerton, Esholt, Ham- 
pole, Keldholme, Kirklees, Nun Appleton, Swine, Sin- 
ningthwaite, and Wykeham they had all disappeared 
between 1536 and 1539. None were of great value, and 
all came under the 200 limit of 1536, but several had 
then received licence to continue. Their history has 
not come within the scope of this book, but as reference 


is here made to them, it may not be amiss to record 
that these small communities of religious women had 
done valuable work in the county by educating the 
daughters of the nobility and gentry, and in teaching 
the domestic arts to the folk amongst whom their lot 
was cast. The records of what they did in this way 
form some of the best and brightest pages of monastic 
history, and against them, at any rate, no reproach can 
be brought as regards their possessions, for every house 
was little removed from the poverty line. Basedale 
was worth 20 is. 4^. ; Ellerton, 15 los. 6d. ; Esholt, 
13 5-r. 4^. ; Hampole, 63 5^. %d. ; Keldholme, 
29 6s. id. ; Kirklees, 19 8s. ^d,. ; Nun Appleton, 
73 9^. lod. ; Swine, .35 15.5-. 5^. ; Sinningthwaite, 
60 9J-. 2d. (of this house Raine (Test. Ebor., ii. 272) 
remarks that ladies who had in their veins some of the 
best blood in the North of England were always to be 
found within its walls) ; and Wykeham, .25 ijs. 6d. 


That anything in the shape of resistance to the royal 
demands was now useless was shown by the treatment 
dealt out to the Abbots of Reading, Glastonbury, and 
Colchester in the last months of 1539. These men, 
heads of three of the most important Benedictine abbeys, 
were suspected of secretly conspiring to resist the sup 
pression of their own and other houses. In September 
the Crown agents, after surveying the Reading house, 
arrested the abbot, Hugh Cook, and seized on the 
abbey. They then travelled forward to Glastonbury, 
where a surprise visit to Abbot Richard Whiting resulted 
in the seizure of certain questionable papers of an 
apparently treasonable nature, and the discovery of 
money and plate which had been hidden when a previous 
inventory of the goods had been taken. On this the 
abbot and certain of his officials were arrested and sent 
to the Tower. Meanwhile charges were being put to 
gether against Abbot Thomas Beche, of Colchester ; 


to us of this day and mode of thinking they do not 
seem very serious. He had said that he objected to 
the pulling down of houses of religion. He had expressed 
sympathy with Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher. 
He had spoken about covetousness in a fashion which 
seemed to make his remarks applicable to the King. 
But all this was quite sufficient Abbot Beche was duly 
executed. Abbot Cook was hanged at Reading in com 
pany with two clergymen of the neighbourhood, also 
suspected of treason. And as for Abbot Whiting, he 
was hanged on Tor Hill, close by his Abbey of Glaston- 
bury, and having been duly drawn and quartered, his 
dismembered limbs were sent out and set up for exhibi 
tion at Ilchester and Bath and Bridgwater, while his 
head was placed on a pike above the abbey gate. And 
after this, as Gairdner remarks, " there was little spirit 
of resistance left." With Henry on the throne, and 
creatures like Cromwell and Norfolk at its steps, English 
men knew little of liberty : a hundred years was to 
elapse before they became resolute enough to adopt a 
short and sharp method of dealing with tyrants. 


By that winter of 1539-40 there was scarcely a monk 
or a nun left within cloistered walls in England. And 
now came the question of providing for them. It is 
usually computed that 8000 monks and nuns were 
turned out, and that 80,000 other persons were affected. 
Leaving the 80,000 aside, to the mercies of the State 
which presently evolved a system of poor relief, little 
removed from cruel slavery, for their benefit, let us see 
what happened to the 8000 religious. The Act of 1536 
(27 Hen. VIII, cap. 28) expressly stated that provision 
would be made for the dispossessed in three specified 
directions : they should have " capacities " to live 
honestly and virtuously abroad, or some convenient 
charity disposed to them towards their living, or they 
should be transferred " to such honourable great monas- 


teries of this realm wherein good religion is observed." 
There were no honourable great monasteries left by 
1540, and most of the 8000 men and women had nothing 
to look to but the suppressor s charity. As far as one 
can gather not one-half of the number received any 
pension at all, nor any provision. No pension was paid 
to any man or woman unless he or she held the King s 
patent, and according to the books of the Augmentation 
Office well under 4000 patents were issued, while the 
dispossessed numbered over 8000. Certain religious 
were absolutely debarred from participation in any 
royal grant. No monk of Jervaulx, for example, was 
allowed to have one penny the same treatment was 
doubtless meted out to those of Salley, for obvious 
reasons in both cases. The friars, taking them as a 
whole, were driven out on the world penniless they 
had been too active against the King. Royal favour, 
indeed, had a good deal to do with the pensioning. 
The Abbot of Ramsey got 266 13^. 4^. a year for life 
because he had been quick to surrender his house, and 
active in persuading other superiors to follow his 
example. On the other hand, the Franciscans at Don- 
caster had 3 handed to them when they were ejected, 
and the Trinitarians at Newcastle were put out into the 
street, not only without money, but with a stern admoni 
tion to pay certain debts which they were owing when 
the King s agents seized their property. 


Amongst the Yorkshire Cistercians the largest pension 
naturally fell to Marmaduke Bradley, last Abbot of 
Fountains, who had been at least complaisant and 
probably quite willing in the matter of the surrender. 
The pension granted to him was worth about .1200 a 
year in our money, and as he was also holder of more 
than one substantial preferment in Yorkshire, and 
notably of that prebend at Ripon which, he told Crom 
well, he vastly preferred to his abbacy, he was in a 


position to end his days in great comfort and satisfac 
tion, as is usual with such men. Bradley was a disgrace 
to his Order, for there is no doubt that he not only 
bribed Cromwell, Legh, and Layton, but assisted the 
two visitors in fabricating and exaggerating the charges 
against Abbot Thirsk which led to his execution at 
Tyburn. John Ripley, Abbot of Kirkstall, seems to 
have been little less complaisant than his brother of 
Fountains, and he was not badly dealt with his pension 
of .66 I3.y. 4^. a year would represent quite 700 to 
,800 in present-day value. As for the monks of these 
houses they received varying amounts from .4 to .8 
a year : similar grants were made to the superiors of 
the other houses and their brethren, and as far as can 
be ascertained all these pensions were paid regularly 
during the life of the King, and some- those of Kirkstall, 
for instance were certainly being kept up in 1553, 
when there is record of them as being discharged for 
that year. There seems little doubt that the abbots 
and priors of the men s houses, and the superiors of 
the women s convents, were provided for properly, 
especially when they had been quick to fall in with the 
royal wishes, but of the great bulk of the ordinary 
religious then" pensions were miserably small, and con 
temporary documents show that many fell into great 
poverty, many nuns who were too aged to work becoming 
dependent on charity which was not always forthcoming, 
and ending their days in want and misery. 


The particulars of the pensions paid to the inmates 
of the Cistercian nunneries in Yorkshire are given in 
Mr. Clay s Suppression Papers, and are worth consider 
ing as being typical of what was probably done all over 
the country. At Basedale, the prioress, Elizabeth 
Rowghton, got .6 13^. 4^. ; Alice Stable, 1 6s. 8d. ; 
Elizabeth Couper, Margaret Couper, Agnes Nellis, 
Agnes Addison, Barbara Brownley, Agnes Turtylby, and 


Joan Fletcher, 2os. each. At Esholt, the prioress, Joan 
Jenkynson, got .6 ; Agnes Collyn, Joan Burton, Barbara 
Dogeson, Agnes Dogeson, Agnes Bayne, Elizabeth 
Mandy, Agnes Woodd, and Joan Huson got i 6s. Sd. 
each. At Kirklees, Joan Kyppes was prioress. There 
is no mention of what she got, but Janet Kyppes and 
Joan Lenthorpe got 2 each, and five other nuns 
i 13.?. 4^. each. At Nun Appleton there were nineteen 
nuns in residence the prioress, Eleanor Nornabell, got 
2 6s. Sd. ; the pensions of the others varied from 
33,5-. 4^. to 40.;., but one, Agnes Snaynton, got 3. At 
Sinningthwaite, " the most aristocratic of the Yorkshire 
nunneries," the prioress, Katherine Foster, got 10 marks. 
There is no mention of other pensions. At Wykeham, 
Katharine Nandyke, the prioress, got .6 i$s. 4^. ; the 
nuns, of whom there were several, were awarded sums 
varying between 26s. Sd. and 53^. 4^. It will be observed 
that the lowest of these pensions amounted to about 
15 a year in modern value. But it is doubtful if some 
of these Yorkshire nuns continued to receive them ; 
some, at any rate, are known to have ended their days 
as dependents in one or other of the great houses. It 
has often been said that a large number of the younger 
nuns married on being cast upon the world, but investiga 
tion has shown that there are only two such instances 
known, and those were of novices who had not been 


It requires little imagination to picture to oneself 
the strange doings which would attend the actual sup 
pression of a religious house, whether it was of the 
magnificence of Fountains or the humility of Ellerton- 
on-Swale. With the exception of Kirkstall, the Cis 
tercian houses stood in rural districts, and even at 
Kirkstall, Leeds was then some miles away from the 
abbey boundaries. Nothing but a rustic population 
was near any one of the houses Rievaulx, Salley, and 


Jervaulx in the sixteenth century were still in the midst 
of solitudes, and though Fountains was very near to 
Ripon, Ripon was an insignificant town. The country 
folk, we may be sure, gathered about, open-mouthed 
and wide-eyed, while the surprising and extraordinary 
proceedings went on. There was plenty for them to 
watch. For what we of this time are very apt to forget 
is that these proceedings were carried out suddenly, in 
all cases, and in the full light of day, in glaring publicity. 
On Sunday the country-folk saw the ancient church and 
cloister in full glory by Saturday they were degraded 
and ruinous. The onlookers, who would come hurrying 
to the scene from farm and field, moor and meadow, 
throwing aside whatever tasks they were engaged in 
at the time, to stare at this sudden excitement, would 
actually see eviction and spoliation practised, with no 
consideration for the evicted. They would see the 
treasures of the church torn from shrines and altars ; 
the furniture of the cloister thrown out in the grounds ; 
lead stripped from the roof ; enough damage done to 
the stone-work to make the house uninhabitable. We 
know from contemporary evidence that the agents 
serving-men used to trick themselves out with the vest 
ments which their masters had thrown aside as being 
of no value, and rode from village to village in them ; 
we know, too, in what light estimation men like Norfolk 
held objects which others regarded with respect. " I 
do send to Your Majesty," writes the Duke, addressing 
a letter to the King on June 5, 1537, " all such things 
of gold as were on the Shrine at Bridlington which I 
caused Master Magnus to take of the said Shrine at my 
being there to suppress the house ; the said gold work 
is in two boxes sealed with my seal . . . and I dare 
well say these doth not lacke the value of one ring. In 
the less box is three proper wrought tablets. And if 
I durst be a thief, I would have stolen them to have 
sent them to the Queen s [Anne Boleyn s] grace, but 
now your Highness having them may give them unto 


her without offence if it be your pleasure." So as a 
writer of that period might well have observed what 
had decorated the shrine of St. John at Bridlington 
Priory went to bedizen a piece of light flesh and blood. 


What impression was made upon the country people 
who witnessed these doings ? We have a good deal of 
dependable testimony. The patriarchal Henry Jenkins, 
who claimed to have known Fountains Abbey in its 
last days, and had often carried messages to the abbot, 
used to speak in the evening of his long life, of the great 
to-do which there was amongst the rustic populations 
when the religious houses were suppressed. But there 
are certain contemporary documents. In Ellis s Original 
Letters Illustrative of English History, the editor, Sir 
H. Ellis, gives extracts from an old manuscript account 
of the suppression of Roche, which, he remarks, probably 
exhibits " what was at that time the genuine as well as 
the general feeling of the English public." This docu 
ment is believed by Aveling, the historian of Roche, to 
have been written by one Cuthbert Shirebrook, a clergy 
man who lived near the abbey, and whose uncle was 
present at the suppression. It tells some strange tales, 
and throws curious sidelights on actual occurrences. 
" As soon as the visitors were entered within the gates 
they called the abbot and other officers of the house," 
runs one passage, " and caused them to deliver all the 
keys, and took an inventory of all their goods, both 
within doors and without. Such beasts, horses, sheep, 
and cattle as were abroad in pasture or grange places, 
the visitors caused to be brought into their presence. 
And when they had done so, they turned the abbot 
and all his convent and household forth of the doors. 
This thing was not a little grief to the convent and all 
the servants of the house, departing one from another, 
and especially such as with then* conscience could not 
break their profession. It would have made a heart of 


flint melt and weep to have seen the breaking up of 
the house, the sorrowful departing and the sudden spoil 
that fell the same day of their departure from their 
home." Then, a little later in his narrative, he adds 
a naive account of a conversation with his father, who 
had joined with others of the countryside in purchasing 
certain of the monastic goods from the commissioners. 
" I demanded, thirty years after the suppression [which 
he had actually witnessed as a boy], of my father, who 
had bought part of the timber of the church, and all 
the timber of the steeple with the bell frame . . . 
whether he thought well of the religious persons, and 
of the religion then used. And he told me Yea, for, 
said he, I saw no cause to the contrary. Well, said 
I, then how came it to pass you were so ready to 
destroy and spoil what you thought so well of ? Might 
I not as well as others have some profit from the spoil 
of the abbey ? said he. I saw all would away, and 
therefore I did as others did. " In this account, too, 
there is tribute to the easygoing customs of the Cis 
tercians as landlords, which, of course, accounted largely 
for their popularity amongst the rustic populations. 
" They never raised any rent, or took any incomes or 
garsomes of their tenants : nor ever took in or improved 
any commons : although the most part and the greatest 
was ground belonging to their professions. . . All sorts 
of people were helped and succoured by abbeys yea, 
happy was that person that was tenant to an abbey, 
for it was a rare thing to hear that any tenant was 
removed by any taking his farm over his head. He 
was not afraid of any re-entry for non-payment of his 
rent, if necessity drove him thereunto. And thus they 
fulfilled all the works of charity in all the country round 
about them to the good example of all lay persons that 
now have taken forth other lessons, that is nunc tempus 
alias postulat mores" 



As to what was thought and felt in the market towns 
there is some example in a letter which the late Richard 
Holmes, the well-known antiquary of Pontefract, copied 
in the original spelling from the holograph at the Record 
Office some thirty years ago. It was written probably 
in 1556 by one John Hamerton, who lived at Purston, 
just outside Pontefract, to Reginald Pole, then Arch 
bishop of Canterbury. 

To the Right Honourable and Most Reverend Father in God, 
the Lord Cardinal Pole, to his Good Grace. 

May it please your honourable Grace, of your great mercy, 
pity, and abundant charity, ever according to your accustomed 
clemency to reduce into your devout memory my old, long, and 
continual suit to your noble grace, touching the re-edifying of 
the church belonging to the College and Hospital founded in the 
honour of the Most Blessed Trinity in Pontefract within the 
county of York. My lord, what can I say therein that hath 
not been revealed in former petitions to your grace touching 
the same suit, not as my only private suit, but by the suit of the 
Mayor and all the whole inhabitants of the same town, not only 
exhibited to your grace but also unto the King and the highest 
under their common seal over and beside the supplication of 
the poor bede people of the same Hospital ? My lord, as I have 
said before, we had in that town one abbey [the writer meant 
the Cluniac Priory of St. John], two colleges, a House of Friars 
Preachers, one anchoress, one hermit, four chantry priests, one 
gild priest. Of all these the inhabitants of the town of Pontefract 
are neither relieved bodily nor spiritually. We have there left 
an unlearned vicar [this was John Barker, Vicar of Pontefract 
from 1538 to 1568], which hireth two priests, for indeed he is 
not able to discharge the cure other ways, and I dare say the 
vicar s levying is under forty marks, the parsonage hath the 
pensioners, and surely two parts of the property hath the 
parishioners, but this is a general infirmity, and Lord amend it ! 
Truly, there be some head parishioners and petty parishioners 
and every one catcheth a price. But the poor needy members 
of Christ catcheth none at all. But my suit to your noble grace 



at this present is, most humbly to desire your grace that you 
will have compassion of the great misery that this said town of 
Pontefract is fallen into, both bodily and spiritually, since the 
godly foundations aforesaid hath been so mis-ordered and mis 
used, and the old sanctuaries of God so pitifully defiled and 
spoiled. These premises tenderly considered, if it would please 
your noble grace so to prefer the continual suit aforesaid, to the 
advancement of God s glory and to the comfort of His poor 
members both bodily and spiritually, so that I your poor sup 
pliant and many others shall have come continually to pray 
according to our abundant duty for the prosperous estate of our 
sovereign Lord and Lady the King and the Queens highness with 
your honourable grace long to endure by your supplicant and 
continual orator, unworthy JOHN HAMERTON 

This letter, of course, was written during the reign of 
Philip and Mary, at a time when men of its writer s 
stamp were hoping that the old order of things would 
be restored. How vain and how impossible that hope 
was, we know. From the day on which the last house 
was surrendered to the Bang s commissioners there was 
never any hope that monasticism would be revived 
in England on the old lines. For on those lines it had 
been a failure, and especially so in the case of the 
Cistercian Order. 


Let us consider why the Cistercians had failed. But, 
after all, the matter needs little consideration. The 
reason of their failure is too obvious to any unprejudiced 
student of history. They failed because they were not 
true to their first principles, because they departed from 
their original ideal, because they broke their own laws 
and neglected their own Rule. Whoever carefully reads 
the first constitutions and regulations of the Order knows 
that not in the mind of Stephen Harding, no, nor in that 
of Bernard of Clairvaux, was there any idea of the ac 
quisition of wealth, of the gathering together of lands 
and houses, of the accumulation of gold and silver, 


even for the use of the sanctuary. Simplicity, poverty, 
labour these were the things on which the Rule rested. 
It is inconceivable that the pioneers ever looked forward 
to days wherein the Order would wax fat with treasure, 
when abbots would look out across broad domains and 
own rich manors, when monks would neglect the labour 
of the field for the leisure of the cloister. It is incon 
ceivable that Prior Richard, departing in absolute 
poverty from the ease and slothfulness of St. Mary s at 
York, ever dreamt that a day would come wherein his 
successors at Fountains would rank with nobles in point 
of wealth and power, and sit in high places, and amass 
store of jewels and plate, and forget the severe rules 
which the first brethren had kept. Between the Cis 
tercian of the twelfth century and the Cistercian of the 
fifteenth there is a difference which no argument, how 
ever plausible, can explain. The Cistercians of the end 
must be judged by the standard of the Hardings and 
the Bernards of the beginning. 


Supposing the Cistercians had kept to their Rule, in 
letter and in spirit ? supposing, during the four centuries 
of their existence in Yorkshire, they had preserved their 
original high-mindedness, their austerity, their devotion 
to prayer and labour ? is it conceivable that they would 
have failed ? The world, evil as it is, is yet terribly 
afraid of meddling with sanctity made evident before 
its eyes. The world has a " common sense " that 
common sense does not interfere with things which are 
proved to be of good. If the Cistercians had kept to 
their constitutions, if men had viewed them as a com 
munity devoted to austerity, prayer, labour, content 
with the bare subsistence which they were to gain by 
the toil of their own hands, covetous of nothing, eager 
for nothing but the carrying out of their founders high 
purpose, the world would have admired and left them 
alone. But what did the world actually see ? It saw 


all the simplicity and austerity disappear. It saw 
magnificent and lordly cloisters arise. It saw 
acre added to acre, and house to house. It saw abbots 
change into keen men of business, more occupied with 
books of account than with breviary and missal. It 
saw the monastic community transformed into a land 
owning corporation, popular enough, no doubt, with the 
tenants to whom it let its farms on easy terms, but none 
the less become something which was not in accord with 
the original idea which was, that what land monks 
possessed, monks themselves should till. More than 
all, the world, always narrowly observant, saw the 
monastic Orders become envious, covetous, grasping, 
abbot going to law with abbot over a messuage or a 
tenement, full of a litigious spirit. It saw that which 
had arisen in a holy poverty become a system whereof 
money was the foundation. Explain it however so 
plausibly, the monastic system as practised in England 
during those middle centuries became a failure because 
its upholders trafficked with Mammon. Beginning with 
nothing, the Orders came to possession of much. And 
the " common sense " which is, after all, the recogni 
tion of fittingness began to ask questions. One such 
question received a cruel an unnecessarily cruel 
answer in the sixteenth century. Was it ever intended 
so that question really framed itself that these monastic 
communities should become what they have become, 
what they are known to be ? Was it ever intended that 
a close corporation of some twenty or thirty men as 
at Fountains should own land and property worth at 
least .12,000 a year of modern money ? And doubtless 
many who propounded that question answered it at 
once, pertinently Let them be judged by their own 
rule. The truth was that the Cistercians, long before 
the end came, had fallen into the condition which had 
so roused the pious indignation of Prior Richard at 
York. " We lust after all things," said he, pointing to 
the state of affairs at St. Mary s in his day ; " we lose 


our tempers, we quarrel, we seize the goods of others, 
we claim our rights by lawsuits, we protect fraud and 
lying, we follow the flesh and its desires. We live for 
ourselves, we please ourselves, we fear to be conquered, 
we glory in conquering, we oppress others, we shrink 
from being oppressed, we envy others, we glory in our 
own success, we make merry and grow fat on the sweat 
of others, the whole world cannot hold our malice." 
Who, that has carefully read the chartularies, coucher 
books, and documents of the various Cistercian houses 
in Yorkshire, or has followed the accounts of their 
interminable law proceedings in the legal records, can 
truthfully deny that what Prior Richard said of his 
fellow Benedictines of York does not apply to the 
Yorkshire Cistercians for at least three centuries of 
their existence ? The chartularies are not records of 
sanctity and good deeds, but of insatiable hunger for 
land and houses and money, and of a litigious habit of 
mind which cannot be explained away. 


Different, indeed, might it all have been had the 
Cistercians kept to their primitive excellence ! Not all 
the Henrys, Norfolks, Cromwells in the world would 
have dared to lay a finger on a Stephen Harding or a 
Bernard of Clairvaux. Would they, indeed, have ever 
laid hands on the monastic bodies of the sixteenth 
century if those bodies had not been worth robbing and 
spoiling ? What profit is there in robbing the man who 
has nothing ? If the religious houses had been what 
their founders meant them to be houses of holy poverty, 
of prayer, of learning, of help there would have been 
no such spectacle as that which disgraced the reign of 
Henry VIII. Tyranny would have been there, and 
covetousness, and the rapacity of man but these things 
would not have found the wherewithal to batten upon. 
As it was, there was a vast accumulation of wealth 
more wealth, perhaps, than statisticians can accurately 


calculate. And what business has the monk with money ? 
Can any man for one sober moment picture St. Basil 
as Abbot of Fountains in the days of its glory and 
grandeur, or Bernard of Clairvaux in the Assize Courts 
at York, tussling with the men of wig and gown for 
possession of some miserable messuage or scrap of land ? 
During the last hundred years we have seen monasticism 
revived in England, on stricter and purer lines, conform 
able to the original ideas. Monks and nuns are amongst 
us again thousands of them. But who desires to inter 
fere with the Cistercians of Charnwood, or the Benedic 
tines of Downside, or with the numerous communities 
of men and women, whether in the Roman or the 
Anglican Church, who feel that they can best serve God 
in the cloister ? No one, save the bigots to whom no 
sensible man pays one moment s attention. And why ? 
Because the " common sense " of the nation sees that 
in these modern religious houses religion is real, is the 
true motive, that the various rules are kept in them, 
and that they do not traffic in land and property, striving 
to amass riches. Now during the Middle Age in England 
the monastic Orders did traffic in worldly matters and 
as they put their trust in the things of this world, so 
by the things of this world they were brought low. 
There must have been many a good and pious monk at 
the time of the Suppression, who, as he sadly turned 
away from the cloister which was to shelter him no 
more, was truthful and courageous enough to face facts, 
and sadly said to himself, " Had we but kept our Rule ; 
had we but loved poverty as a bride ; had we but 
preserved our feet from treading on many lands, and 
our hands from grasping at much gold, then the Lord s 
Light had not been quenched in our sanctuary, and His 
praises had gone up from our walls for ever ! " 

26. THE END. 

But it was all over, and the ivy grew on the broken 
masonry of church and cloister, and profane hands 


carried away consecrated stone and mended the roads 
or repaired the stables with it, and before very long 
men came to wander around Fountains and Rievaulx 
and Byland and Roche, wondering so soon are things 
forgotten what they had really been in their day, and 
what manner of men they were who had lived in them. 
In all the history of the fall of human institutions, 
nothing is so sudden, so startling, so terribly dramatic 
as the fall of the religious houses of England in 1539- 
A year before the end the bells still rang out across 
valley and moor : a year after the end there was no 
sound of ringing, for there was not a bell left, and the 
towers were already crumbling. All had come to an 
end. And as the monks fell, so the immediate instru 
ment of their destruction fell too surely, swiftly. On 
March 23, 1540, the last of the religious houses was 
surrendered, when the Abbot of Waltham handed over 
his keys to the royal commissioners ; on June 10 the 
Duke of Norfolk tore the Order of St. George violently 
from Cromwell s neck as he stood at the council board, 
and hurried him off to the Tower on a charge of high 
treason. And Cromwell knew that all was over for 
him, and it may have been with a sudden quickening 
of spirit that he accepted his fate, and bade his enemy 
to make sharp work, and not to leave him languishing 
in prison. Not long was he left to languish, for it was 
the fashion to do things expeditiously in those days. 
Yet long enough, one thinks, to allow him to reflect 
upon certain matters. Did he think of them ? Did he 
look back over the days of his life and consider his 
works and his principles and his time-serving and his 
love of opportunism and his greed and his cold-hearted- 
ness and his implacable doings when cruelty was needed 
for the achievement of his purpose ? As he sat in the 
Tower, waiting for death, did he think of More, whom 
he had made to wait there for his death ; as he walked 
across Tower Hill to the block, did he think of Fisher, 
whom he had sent on that same journey, a white-haired 


and feeble man, not very long before ? And when at 
last he stood on the scaffold, in that last moment of 
life, with the awful unknown so very close to him, and 
took his last look round on the ancient city and the 
still more ancient river, did he see, coming between 
him and the gabled houses and flowing tide, blotting 
out the fairness of the July morning, the faces, row 
upon row, of those pale ghosts whom his ruthlessness 
had sent hurrying out of life as he himself was now to 
be hurried ? and if he reflected on these things and 
saw these things, what were his last thoughts and 
conclusions ? Who shall say ? Who shall dare to say ? 
Si obliti sumus nomen Dei nostri, et si expandimus manus 
nostras ad deum alienum : nonne Deus requiret ista f 
ipse enim novit abscondita cordis. 



ABBEYS. See Monasteries. 

Abbot, the, 74, 76 ; in Parliament, 
137 ; importance, 139 ; as lord 
of the manor, 145 ; social status, 

Abbots, some notable, 140 ff. 

execution of three, 313 
Abuses, the Ten, 187 
Agriculture, Cistercians as pioneers 

of, 37, 92 1, 96, 131 f., 147, 150 
Almoner, the, 85 
Ap Rice, Sir John. See Visitors. 
Architecture, Cistercian, 10 f., 14, 

117, 140, 169 f. ; Carthusian, 5 
Aske, Robert, leader of Pilgrimage 

of Grace, 275 ff. ; settles terms 

with Norfolk, 292 f. ; visits 

Henry VIII, 294 ; trial and 

execution, 297 f. 
Augmentations, Court of, 262 


Benedictine Order, the, 2 f. ; laxity 

and indifference, 3 ; reform, 4 ff . ; 

educational influence, 13, 158 ff. 
Benefices, Appropriation of, 166, 


Bigod Rising, the, 295 
Black Death, the, 182 ff. 
Blood-letting, 84 f. 
Bradley, Marmaduke, 254, 312, 315 
Byland, founded, 34, 48 ff. ; lands, 

in, 135 ; flocks, 113 ; books, 

162 ; plate, 162 ; income, 135 ; 

lawsuits, 112 f. ; dissolved, 309 

CANTOR, the, 79 
Carlyle, Thomas, 75 f. 
Carthusians, the, 5 ; execution of, 

Cellarer, the, 8i 

Chapter, the, 15 f., 20 

Charity, 85, 94, 120, 164, 320 

Charta Charitatis, g f., 17 

Chaucer, 185 

Church of England, the, twelfth- 
century revival, 29 ; golden age, 
68 f . ; Cromwell s persecution 
of, 220 ff. ; independence of, 
230 f. 

Churches, Cistercian, 10 f., 14 f. ; 
Carthusian, 5 ; Cluniac, 10 ; 
Yorkshire, 72 f . 

Churchmen of thirteenth century, 
Great, 70 

Cistercians, the, history, i ff. ; 
founder, 8 f., 26 f. ; divided into 
two classes, n ; officers, 76 ff. ; 
original ideas, 12 f., 17, 75, 95, 
169 ; simplicity, 10 ; colleges, 
13 ; customs, 90 ; reason for 
white habit, 91 ; spread of the 
Order, 6, 25; in England, 27; in 
Yorkshire, 32, 73 ff. ; pioneers of 
industry and civilization, 95 ff. ; 
influence, 92, 136, 158, 166 ; little 
love of learning, 12, 13 f., 160 ; 
as farmers, 37 f., 63, 93, 96, 131 f. ; 
as landlords, 93, 131, 146 ff., 

171 f., 320 ; popularity, 93 f., 
97 f. ; wealth, 97 f., 116, 134 f., 
162, 171 ff. ; cessation of endow 
ments, 102, 134, 173 ; effect of 
Black Death, 184; share in 
Pilgrimage of Grace, 279 ff. ; 
reasons for failure, 971., 155, 167, 

172 ff., 180 1, 184 f., 322 ff. ; 
houses at time of Dissolution; 
28 f., 172 ; contemporary opinion; 
148, 185 ff., 319 f. 

Citeaux, 6 ff. 
Clairvaux, 26, 95 

Clergy, subjection of, 220 ; secular, 
43, 71 f., 119, 166 f., 174 




Cloister, the, 15 
Cluniacs, the, 4, 10 
Communion, Holy, TO, 25 
Conversi, n, 24, 91, 157, 161, 172 
Corrody system, the, 97, 154, 177 
Cromwell, Thomas, 209 ; early 
days, 2ii ; business in London, 
213, 227 ; enters Wolsey s ser 
vice, 213 ff. ; at Esher, 210 ; 
Member of Parliament, 214, 217 ; 
character, 216 f., 218, 235, 299 ; 
appearance, 218 ; introduction 
to the King, 219 ; advancement, 
223, 227 ; religious opinions, 225 ; 
ecclesiastical policy, 230 ; corre 
spondence, 228 ; Visitor-General, 
245 ff. ; share in monastic spoils, 
241 ff. ; execution, 327 f. 

DARCY, Lord, denounces Crom 
well, 272 ; joins Pilgrimage of 
Grace, 276 f. ; trial and execu 
tion, 297 

de Mowbray, 50 f., 53, 101, 108 ff., 

Doncaster, advance on, 285 ; con 
ference at, 287 ; second meeting 
at, 292 

EDUCATION, 158 ff. 

Espec, Walter, 33, 38, 39, 99 ff. 

Exordium, 7, 17 

FARMING. See Agriculture. 

Fisher, Bishop, 233 

Food and drink, Cistercian, 21, 25, 
81 ff., 109, 120 ; Carthusian, 5 ; 
price of, 119 f., 144 f., 154 

Fountains, founded, 34, 44 ; plan 
of, 15 f. ; early poverty, 45 ff., 
67 ; lands, 97, 98, 104 ff., 108 ff., 
*35 1 plate, 162 ; trade, no f . ; 
income, 107, 135, 324; Chartu- 
lary, 105 ff. ; Layton and Legh 
at, 253 ; Pilgrimage of Grace, 
283 ; dissolved, 312 

Friars, the, 71, 174, 250 

GUEST-MASTER, the, 88 
Guests, 88, 89, 94 

HARDING, Stephen, 7, 8 
Henry VIII, divorce, 219 ff. ; 
supreme head of the Church of 

England, 220 ff., 230 f., 292 , 
answers Pilgrims complaints* 
288 ; receives Aske, 294 ; ven 
geance on leaders of Pilgrimage 
of Grace, 297 

Hexham affair, the, 267 

Horse-breeding, 114, 131 f. 

Hours, the, 17, 24 

Hugh, Dean of York, 48, 103 

INFIRMARER, the, 84 

JERVAULX, founded, 34, 52 ff. ; 
horse-breeding, 114 ; lands, 135 ; 
income, 135 ; legal cases, 115 ; 
Pilgrimage of Grace, 281 ; sup 
pressed, 303 f. 

Jew money-lenders, 141 f., 181 

KIRKSTALL, founded, 34, 56 ff. ; 
Abbot Alexander, 57 ff. ; lands, 
122 ff., 135 ; income, 135 ; law 
suits, 124 ff. ; Coucher Book, 121; 
dissolved, 312 

Kitchener, the, 83 

LABOUR, manual, 12, 21 ; cessation 
of, 171 

Land values, 37, 38, 103 

Layton, Richard (see Visitors), 
letter to Cromwell, 304 

Lead, 110 

Legh, Sir Thos. See Visitors. 

Liber Usuum, 10, 19, 87 

Lincolnshire Rising, the, 274 

Litigation, Cistercians ceaselessly 
engaged in, 99, 180 f . ; contri 
butes to downfall of the Order, 97, 
1 80 f . ; bribery and corruption, 
134 ; Judicial Duel, 133 

London, Dr. See Visitors. 


Meaux, founded, 34, 61 f . ; early 
troubles, 63 ; worldliness, 65, 
130 f. ; debt, 65 ; flocks and 
herds, 66, 131 ; lands, 135 ; 
trade, 132 ; income, 135 ; legal 
proceedings, 66, 133 ; Chronicles, 
64 ; Black Death, 183 ; dis 
solved, 312 

Monachi. See Monks. 


Monasteries, as guest-houses, 88, 89, 
94 ; as news-centres, 90 ; laxity 
at, 3 f ., 190 ff., 250 ; wealth, 
237 ff., 262; attack on, 236; 
suppression of smaller houses, 
200 f., 259 ff.; 266 ; suppression 
by surrender, 308 E. ; new 
bishoprics endowed, 311 f . ; sup 
pression scenes, 317 ; rush for 
spoils of, 263 ff., 301 fE., 306 ff. ; 
number of persons turned out at 
dissolution of, 238 

Monasticism, early, I ff. ; golden 
age, 68 ; place in history, 
169; reason for failure, 324, 
326 ; revival in England, 326 

Monks, life of, 17 ff. ; duties, n f., 
20 ; pleasures, 3, 91, 109 f., 185 ; 
punishments, 20 f., 91 ; death, 
20, 23 ; moral charges against, 
188, 191 ff., 250, 257 ff. ; con 
temporary opinion, 185 ff. 

More, Sir Thomas, Utopia, 152 ; 
opinion of Henry VIII, 232 ; 
trial and execution, 234 

NORFOLK, Duke of, 217; settles 
terms with leaders of Pilgrimage 
of Grace, 287 ff. ; in Yorkshire, 
299 ff . ; character, 299 ; arrests 
Cromwell, 327 

Novice-Master, the, 86 

Novices, admission and training of, 
86 f. 

Nunneries, 29, 32, 312 

OXFORD, 14, 191, 192. 200, 205 

PAPAL exactions, 132, 151, 176 

Pensions, 261 f., 267, 314 ff. 

Pilgrimage of Grace, the, causes, 
271 ff. ; the two parties, 277 ; 
Cistercians share in, 279 ff. ; 
Pilgrims Hymn, 285 ; the King s 
answers to complaints, 288 ; the 
Petition, 290 ; conference of 
clergy, 292 ; terms agreed upon, 
293 ; trial and execution of 
leaders, 297 f. 

Pole, Cardinal, 321 

Pontefract, march to, 276 ; council 
at, 290 

Prior, the, 78 


Richard, Prior, denounces laxity at 
York, 40 ff. ; leaves York, 43 ; 
elected first Abbot of Fountains, 
45 ; appeals for help to St. 
Bernard, 45 ; journeys to Clair- 
vaux, 47 

Rievaulx, founded, 34, 38 ; lands, 
38, 99 ff., 134 ; plate, 162 ; in 
come, 135 ; Chartulary, 99 ; 
Pilgrimage of Grace, 283 ; dis 
solved, 309 

Ritual, 10, 140, 169 f. 

Roads, state of, 89 

Roche, founded, 34, 59 ; posses 
sions, 127, 135 ; income, 135 ; 
litigation, 129 ; dissolved, 309 ; 
account of suppression, 319 f. 

Rome, breach with, 221 

Rumburgh, 201 

SACRIST, the, 80 

St. Albans, 193 

St. Benedict, 2 ; rule of, 2, 3, 13, 17, 

20, 22, 159, 169, 323, 325 

St. Bernard, 26, 32, 45, 48, 54, 95, 

Salley, founded, 34, 55 ; posses 
sions, 120, 135; income, 119, 
135. Compotus, 119; litigation, 
118 ; suppression, 266 f., 269 ; 
Pilgrimage of Grace, 280 

Sanctuary, right of, 156 ff., 198 

Savigny, Order of, 25, 51 f., 53 

Selborne, 191 

Serlo, 40, 46, 56 f., 103 

Shaving, 87 

Sheep, in, 113, 131 1, 150; trade, 
danger of, 151 

Silence, rule of, 5, 13, 21 

Standish, 198 

Sub-Prior, the, 79 

Suppression, Acts of, 200 f., 259 ff., 
311 f. 

TEMPLARS, the, 26 

Thurstan, Archbishop, 42 ff., 49 f. 

USES, Statute of, 273 

VESTIARIUS, the, 87 
Vestrnents, 10 f., 140, 169 f* 
Villainage, 126 f., 145 f. 



Visitors of the Monasteries, the, 
245 f. ; their careers, 247 ; their 
instructions, open and secret, 
249 ; Layton and Legh in York 
shire, 251 8., 255 f. ; Comperta, 
257 ; Black Book, 258 

WAGES, 120 
Walsingham, 192 
Waverley. 28, 32, 157 
Wolsey, Cardinal, 196 ; ambition, 
198 ; as Reformer, 200 ff. ; pos 

sibilities, 206; at Esher, 210 f. : 
in the North, 206 ; death, 208 ; 
contemporary opinion, 208 

Wool, no, 125, 131 f., 151 

Wymondham, 192 

YORK, conference at, 289 

York Abbey, founded, 31 ; seces 
sion from, 39 ff. 

Yorkshire, Religious Orders in, 31 ; 
Church life, 72 ; Black Death 
in, 183 



I I 300 886